Maori Battalion loses another

'Private man' Tom Tipa lost at age 89

OBITUARY
Last updated 05:00 17/12/2013
Tom Tipa
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FOND FAREWELL: Lieutenant "Bunty" Preece, left, site next to Tom Tipa just prior to their deployment in Japan.

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Timaru man Tom Tipa, one of the last surviving members of the Maori Battalion, died on Friday. He was 89.

There will be a short tribute from the local branch of the RSA at Mr Tipa's funeral today.

Mr Tipa was enlisted in the 14th reinforcement of D Coy 26 (Maori) Battalion, which was drawn from the lower half of the North Island, all of the South Island, the Chathams Islands and the Pacific Islands.

He was one of the last two surviving members of the battalion from the South Island contingent.

Mr Tipa is survived by his five children and seven grandchildren.

"He was a very private man, and he was much admired and loved by his family and the community," Mr Tipa's son Robert said.

Mr Tipa was in the first draft of 14th reinforcement, which arrived in Italy in October 1944.

Local historian Tom O'Connor said the Maori Battalion was the only New Zealand battalion consisting purely of volunteers.

"The soldiers were fighting to prove they were as good as anyone else at a time when there was still significant levels of discrimination against Maori," Mr O'Connor said.

Mr Tipa was assigned as batman to Major (later Lieutenant) Alfred "Bunty" Preece, a position he retained until the end of the war.

Mr Tipa later volunteered for service in the occupational forces known as J Force after the fall of Japan in 1945, where he again served as batman to Lieutenant Preece.

The 93 year-old Lieutenant Preece said Mr Tipa was an absolute gentleman and a "damn fine soldier".

"He arrived at the beginning of some of the toughest fighting we saw in Italy and I really regret that I cannot be there to see him off [at the funeral service]," Mr Preece said. "I have asked our only other surviving D Company member, Henry Norton, to say a few words for me but it is very hard not to be able to get there this one last time."

After the war, Mr Tipa worked as a boilermaker for most of his life. He spent much of his life in Otago, but moved to Timaru about 20 years ago.

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- The Timaru Herald

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