Holding onto history: a granddaughter’s glimpse into the life of Sir Hēnare Kōhere Ngata

Sir Hēnare Kōhere Ngata, the youngest son of Sir Apirana Ngata, left a profound mark not only in history but also in the hearts of his descendants.

Sir Hēnare Kōhere Ngata, the youngest son of Sir Apirana Ngata, left a profound mark not only in history but also in the hearts of his descendants.

As a member of the 28th Māori Battalion during World War II, his journey was marked by bravery, love, and the harsh realities of war. Through the eyes of his devoted granddaughter, Zandria Taare, we gain a unique insight into the life of this remarkable man.

In May 1940, Sergeant-Major Hēnare Ngata bid farewell to his sweetheart, Rora Lorna Metekingi, whom he had married just before departing for war. Their love story, born amidst the halls of Victoria University, carried deep significance throughout his wartime experiences. Three months later, Hēnare set sail with the 28th Māori Battalion, ready to face the challenges that lay ahead.

Taare, now a research librarian in Gisborne, preserves her grandfather’s legacy through the letters he penned during his time at war. In one poignant extract, Hēnare describes the tense moments aboard the ship as they navigated through treacherous waters, evading enemy attacks. His words paint a vivid picture of the dangers he faced and the uncertainty that engulfed him during those turbulent times.

“To cap things off, a torpedo was fired at the convoy. In the meantime, we were zig-zagging every eight minutes or so.”

However, fate had more trials in store for Hēnare. On April 29, 1941, the British commander at Kalamata surrendered to the Germans, and Hēnare found himself a prisoner of war. Taare shares his harrowing account of imprisonment, where the vast expanse of the sea seemed to mock their confinement. Despite the adversity, Hēnare’s resilience and spirit remained unbroken.

Taare’s bond with her grandfather transcends the pages of history. She reminisces about the cherished moments spent by his side, accompanying him to various engagements alongside her grandmother, Lorna. Their inability to have children led them to adopt Taare’s father, forging a bond that would endure through the years.

As the kaitiaki, or guardian, of her grandfather’s letters and stories, Taare is committed to preserving his legacy for future generations. Through her dedication, she ensures the voices of Sir Hēnare Kōhere Ngata and his ancestors continue to resonate, reminding us of the strength and resilience inherent in the Māori spirit.

“Our grandfather,” Taare reflects, “every day told us he loved us. He didn’t only show it by buying our school uniforms and coming down to watch us lose every single cricket match we played in.” His love and legacy live on, inspiring all who hear his story.

In a world where history often fades into the background, Zandria Taare stands as a beacon of remembrance, honoring the sacrifices and triumphs of her tupuna, Sir Hēnare Kōhere Ngata.