Four WWI soldiers could be forgotten

01:04, Jun 06 2014
Anzac Day
Anzac Day sunrise over field of memories

The Anzac sentiment is one of "lest we forget", but four soldiers named on the Taupo War Memorial Cenotaph are shrouded in mystery.

While most of the names on the cenotaph can be found through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Auckland cenotaph database and Maori Battalion nominal roll, the four men's names cannot be traced.

The discovery was made by the Lake Taupo branch of the Society of Genealogists, which is working on a World War I project researching all the soldiers from the district to mark the war's centenary.

Genealogy group volunteer Diana Hume says all that is known about R H Konotataina, Te A Mereana, P Rokino and Te O Te Whataiwi, is what is stated on the cenotaph. The men were all Maori, privates and died of battle wounds.

Hume said she had a few theories about why nothing could be found and hoped others would be able to come forward with clues as to who the men were.

"I have advised the governance group about it through the Taupo Library and Museum group I am working with on their Kete project, as well as the RSA because they erected the cenotaph, but we can't cross-match them with known Maori soldiers and therefore give them a service number to find their war records," she said.

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"I understand the list of veterans was on a board in one of the previous buildings that stood on the site where the Great Lake Centre now is, so whether the names simply came from that I am not sure.

"We have tried different spellings, as I know some don't adhere to correct Maori grammar, and it was also quite common for Maori to be known by other names. If they were underage they may also have given false names to enlist.

"Perhaps the worst theory I have is whoever erected the cenotaph may have gone on hearsay from someone saying ‘this man should be on there', but we just don't know because we can't find them anywhere," she said. She said the group had a list of 135 soldiers whose histories they were working on.

Hume said she had found researching the Dansey family particularly interesting.

"They had three sons who fought in WWI who were all officers. [One of them] Captain Harry Delamere Dansey was born here with very strong links to Tuwharetoa through his mother Wikitoria Ngamihi Dansey [nee Kahuao]," she said.

"Harry's dad was the postmaster in Rotorua and he was present at the time of the Tarawera eruption and alerted the Government about it and the need for assistance.

"His brother Roger was a fantastic athlete and a Maori All Black. Both brothers were also engineers and it is believed Harry was the first Maori to graduate as a engineer in New Zealand."

For help with researching family members who were soldiers in World War I, or if you have information about the mystery soldiers, email laketaupogenealogy@ gmail.com. l

Waikato