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70 years ago this month

The Battalion are at Montaquila as counter-attack reserve for 2 Paratroop Brigade, then relief for 24 Battalion atop Colle Belvedere. By months end they had moved up the Rapido valley to Sora. Read the war diary for May 1944 here

Tamati Maungarangi Paraone

Serial No: 
Tamati Maungarangi
Next of kin on enlistment: 
Mrs A.K. Cheerington (mother), Tuhipa, Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Address on enlistment: 
Whangarei, New Zealand
Date of death: 
Place of death: 
Bay of Islands Hospital, Kawakawa, New Zealand

This obituary appeared in the New Zealand Herald, 18 March 2008:

Maori Battalion bids farewell to one of its oldest
By Yvonne Tahana

As the 28 Maori Battalion gears up for its annual reunion, one of its oldest members was laid to rest in the Far North yesterday.

Tamati Maungarangi Paraone (Ngati Hine) was part of the first wave of Maori soldiers to enlist in 1939. Eventually 3600 soldiers would serve in the battalion, but only four of the original 39ers are still alive.

Mr Paraone, 91, died last Friday, a week before he was due to meet up with old friends in Gisborne for three days - it was an occasion the former battalion association president was staunchly supportive of, friend Derek Fox said.

"Every now and again there would be a meeting and someone would ask, 'How much longer can we keep meeting?' They're getting on. He put it on the line a few years back at Omapere and said, 'We'll keep meeting until the last one drops - and then you can turn the lights off'.

"What you've got to remember is he was probably the oldest [Maori] man in the North. He was a real treasure and yet he had been away to war and come back and still lived a full life," said Mr Fox.

Mr Paraone was born in Otiria and raised by his grandmother. He was in his early 20s, working for the Northland Electric Power Board, when war broke out.

A Company, dubbed the Gumdiggers because its members hailed from northern iwi, was his unit. Its reputation was forged through military prowess and it was something the 28 Battalion, which saw action in North Africa, Greece, Crete and Italy, took pride in, Mr Paraone once said.

After three years of fighting German forces in North Africa, his campaign was ended by a shrapnel blast on the outskirts of Tobruk in 1943.

Last year, the former sergeant told the Herald that pieces ended up in his eye and back. Although keen to stay, he was sent home - it was that or go blind.

"I was so aroha [sorry] for my mates. I didn't want to leave my friends, but when the Army tells you to do something, you do it, no humbug. So I came home."

Descended from Kawiti, one of Ngati Hine's greatest tacticians who led Maori against the British in the Northern War, Mr Paraone was one of an elite group who issued the wero (challenge) at Waitangi from the 1930s until the 1960s, said his relation Erima Henare.

"He always conducted himself in a way befitting of his whakapapa [bloodline] - the guy had good breeding. I think the numbers of people who came to his tangi and the intensity of the debate over his final resting place was an indication of his mana."

A representative New Zealand Maori and North Auckland rugby player, after the war Mr Paraone developed farming, orcharding and commercial property ventures.

"He was purchasing and doing commercial property long before [other Maori] were. He was a generous man - of his time, his energies and his money. He gave so much of it away - that's the mark of his generation."

Mr Paraone is survived by six children, including New Zealand First MP Pita Paraone, and last year was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Maori.


Tamati Maungarangi Paraone, one of the 28 (Maori) Battalion's oldest soldiers, has died at 91. Mr Paraone was an A Company ("Gumdiggers") veteran. Only seven Gumdiggers remain.

52 other soldiers are split among: B Company (the "Penny Divers"), from Hauraki, Rotorua and Bay of Plenty (17); C Company ("Cowboys"), from the East Coast, (18); and D Company ("Ngati Walkabout"), from Tainui, Wanganui and South Island (17).

Mr Paraone was also part of a smaller group - the 39ers, those who enlisted in 1939. The Maori Battalion's annual reunion will begin on Friday in Gisborne.



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Tamati Paraone

Ko tenei kaumatua e tino tangata toa, rongonui hoki. I tetahi wa i au e mahi ana mo te Maori TV ka tae mai a Tamati ki reira. Ko te tau ko nga takiwa o te 2008 tona tikanga a Tamati hei kaumatua mo nga hoia o te Hoki Whitu a Tu'. I toua hui i reira te Kawanatianara, te Pirimia o Aotearoa, me etahi atu hoia rongonui. Ka haere mai te kaumatua nei a Tamati ki au - ka patai mai no hea au? Ka ki atu au no Te Kao, ko toku Iwi ko Te Aupouri. Ka patai mai ano a Tamati pena e mohio ana au ki a Reweti Ihaka, Riki Ihaka me Rawhiti Ihaka. Ka mea atu au ae, he kaumatua (uncles) era tangata ki au. Ka aue a Tamati. Ka tangi hotuhotu. Ka taka ona roimata me te hupe. Me tona awhi mai i au. Ka titiro mai nga tangata katoa i reira me te whakaaro he aha te mate. Ka ahua tatu te noho a Tamati ka korero mai ki au mo Reweti Ihaka. I te pahutanga me te matenga o Reweti nana i kohi kohi ona toenga tinana. Engari horekau a ia me etahi atu i mohio ko wai ma enei e kohikohitia ana e ratou. Engari na te whero o nga huruhuru o Reweti na reira ke a ia mohio ai, ae ko tenei tinana no te tamaiti o Te Aupouri a Reweti Ihaka. no muri mai ka nehua a Reweti Ihaka me etahi atu hoia i te wahi tapu mo nga marohirohi i El Alamein. I toku mohio ko tenei korero a Tamati te korero tuatati (mutunga) kua mohio te ao i pehea te matenga o Reweti Ihaka toku matua keke. I to maua mutunga i te tangi ka ki mai a Tamati ki au - pena i haere ranei ahau ki ta wahi hei hoia? Ka ki atu au ae. Horo tona hokete i au na te mea horekau au e mou ana i oku tohu hoia (medals) me tona patai - kei hea o tohu? Ka mea atu au kei te kainga. Na Tamati tenei korero ki au. 'E tama tena mahi au e mahi whakahihi - me mou koe i o tohu i nga wa katoa mo nga huihuinga hoia. Hei moumahara mo ratou kihei i hoki ora mai i te whawhai. E hara i te whakanui ko wai koe, engari hei awhi ke i te wairua o ratou i mate atu i ta wahi. I puta mai au i te Army i te tau 1972 engari ko te tau 2008 te tau tuatahi i timata au ki te mou i oku tohu. Ka mutu, e mou tonu ana au i enei ra me te rongo ki te tono a taku kaumatua papa a Tamati . 'Mouria o tohu hei mou mahara mo ratou i mate i ta wahi.' E te papa moe mai i roto i te Ariki Naku na Kingi Ihaka