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39528 Sergeant Wi Te Kowha Hau – 28th Maori Battalion

Wi Te Kowha (also known as Tekoura) Hau was born on 29th August 1915 in Russell, Northland the son of Pipikoneke
and Wiremu Pahi Hau from Rahiti. [i]   Wi had two older siblings, Hongi Hiko (1913) and Rahi (1914) Hau and younger siblings Rua Ngaio (1916)[ii] and (Haki) jack later possibly 1918[iii].

Prior to the start of World War Two, three Hau brothers had moved to the Wellington District for work.  Hongi, WI and Jack (Haki) all are noted as being in Porirua.[iv]

Wi was the first to enlist on date the 9th December 1939. Wi’s military file record that he was a single man living in
Porirua and working as labourer for Fletcher Construction. WI’s next of kin listed is his father Mr Percy Hone Hau, Russell, Northland.

The formation of the 28th Maori Battalion had been agreed to in
October 1939 formed from volunteers selected officers and NCO’s had
begun training at Trentham before moving to Palmerston North when
other ranks joined them on 26th January 1940. The 28th Maori Battalion
had four rifle companies that were based on tribal lines and a HQ company
that drew its men from across all districts. 39528 Private WI Te Kowhau Hau
entered camp with HQ Company.  While in Palmerston North Private Hau
was promoted to Temporary Corporal then Temporary Sergeant Hau.


              28th Maori Battlion at Russell, Northland February 1940 

                                                            On 1st May 1940 T/Sergeant Hau was one of the 681 men of the
                                                            28th Maori Battalion sailing with others of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Forces                                                                    (2NZEF) for Egypt. The threat of Italy entering the war and blocking the Suez                                                                                      Canal resulted in the troopship being diverted to South Africa and then to England.                                                                          Following the Fall of France there was a threat of German invading Britain so the                                                                              troopship was diverted to the UK. T/Sergeant Hau landed in Scotland on 5th June 1940.                                                                  While training in the UK T/Sergeant Hau was given the substantive role of Corporal.
                                                            With the threat of German invasion lessened the 28th Maori Battalion left England for                                                                    Egypt on 4th January 1941.

                                                                      Wi Te Kowha Hau c 1940

                                                            The Maori Battalion arrived in Egypt on 4th March 1941 and spent three weeks                                                                                adapting to the new conditions. On 25th March 1941 the Maori Battalion were loaded                                                                    for movement to Greece as part of Operation Lustre.
Operation Lustre attempted to support the Greek Forces against German & Italian forces. The operation ended with the Allied forces pushed out of Greece and by May 1941 with Corporal Hau reported on 18th May 1941 on Crete. The Maori Battalion was one of the Allied elements defending the island of Crete from the German airborne invasion that was launched on 20th May 1941. Allied forces were defeated and those elements that could be were evacuated to Egypt. Corporal Hau was reported on 10th June 1941 as ‘safe in Egypt.’

The 28th Maori Battalion in Egypt underwent extensive retraining prior to the being committed to Operation Crusade,
the relief of Tobruk, in November 1941.  This was against German Afrika Korp and their Italian Allies. Following the to and fro action Corporal Hau’s service file notes that he was safe in Egypt on 22nd January 1942. The 28th Maori Battalion was withdrawn, along with other NZ units to Egypt then sent to Syria in February 1942 as defence against a possible German threat through that region of the Middle East. While the Battalion was in Syria Corporal Hau was promoted to Sergeant Hau.

                                                                   The 28th Maori and other NZEF elements returned to Egypt on 15th June 1942 and                                                                          the renewed threat on Rommel’s Afrika Korp. Back and forth fighting occurred up to                                                                        the October 1942 Battles of El Alamien. On 1st / 2nd November 1942 the 28th Maori                                                                       Battalion was committed to an assault on the high ground near Tel el Aqqaqir in the                                                                       night time action the battalion lost 22 killed, 72 wounded and 4 missing.[v]


                                                                    28th Maori Battalion members in battle field conditions 1943


                                                                    A personal account from “Nga Tama Toa – the Price of Citizenship by Monty Soutar.
                                                                    ‘ Supporting artillery began firing at 1:05am and the assaulting companies set off                                                                              some 150 yards behind the barrage, C company on the right and D company on the                                                                        left.  A & B companies would do the mopping up, as the advance and fighting intensified, A company’s OC Jim Matehaere was wounded. Lieutenant Aperahama had taken the Taitokerau company forward to assist 14 platoon, as they charged to their right they passed Rangiuia and several men of his platoon lying wounded. The Ngati Porou platoon had been badly cut up by machinegun fire on the unchecked flank. In a fierce
fight, Aperahama's men overcame 4 strong points and took up a position facing right.
This was the action in which cousin Wi Te Kowha was killed.” 

39528 Sergeant Wi Te Kowha Hau is buried in the El Alamein War Cemetery one of 1053 New Zealand servicemen buried
in the cemetery.

Sergeant Wi Te Kowha Hau’s name will be inscribed on the
Porirua District Memorial Wall.

Notes
Two of Wi Te Kowha Hau’s brothers also served in the 28th Maori Battalion
Hongi Hiko Hau 
Jack Hau 

References
28MaoriBattalion.org.nz
NZ History.govt.nz (28th Maori Battalion )
NZETC: Tell el Aqquqir – the place
NZ BDM
Paperspast Online
NZDF Archives

Photos
28th Maori Battalion, Russell 4th February 1940: Auckland Weekly News
Sergeant Wit e Kowha Hau: The Weekly News 30th December 1942
28th Maori Battalion men battlefield conditions: Alexander Turnbull
Sergeant Hau’s grave: NZ Wargraves Project

[i] Wi Te Kowha Hau: 28th Maorin Battalion website
[ii] NZ BDM
[iii] 28th Maori Battalion website
[iv] NZDF Archives
[v] Tell el Aqqaqir: NZETC (the place)   

 
28th Battalion train in Battle Field Conditions 1943