16/636 Private Rangi Ira Wi Katene – NZ Maori Pioneer Battalion  

Of Ngati Toa descent Rangi Ira Wi Katene was born on 17th September 1892[i] in Motueka, Nelson, the son of
Wiremu Tipo  and Hareti Te Kairangi  Katene[ii].

On the 16th November 1899 Hareti died, possibly from complication after the birth of the couple’s youngest daughter, Huria Ngarongoa Katene. The family was split up with some going with Wiremu, other to whanau and the youngest
three; Frederick, Manu and Huria Ngarongoa Katene to the Anglican orphanage in Motueka[iii].

On 10th July 1915 Rangi Wi Katene enlisted in the Maori Contingent of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF)[iv] joining two of his younger brothers Taku and Frederick who had enlisted on the4 1st July 1915. Rangi Wi Katene gave his father Wi Katene, Lyall Bay, Wellington as his next of kin and his occupation as farmer of Motueka.

Insert photo of Rangiira Wi Katene in uniform

Following basic training the three brothers 16/635 Private Taku,
16/636 Private Rangi Wi and 16/792 Private Frederick Bennett Wi Katene left
New Zealand on 18th September 1915, on the HMNZTS Waitemata with other
elements of the 2nd  Maori Contingent[v].

                                                                                Private Rangi Ira Wi Katene 1915              

Privates Katene arrived in Egypt on 26th October 1915, at this stage the Gallipoli
campaign was drawing to a close so the brothers remained in Egypt.  The withdrawal
of the ANZAC Forces from Gallipoli was followed by reorganisation within the NZEF
as it prepared to move to the Western Front. Private Katene was posted to the
Wellington Infantry regiment in Janaury 1916 then later to the NZ Pioneer Battalion.
The Battalion was formed  February 1916 and  included elements of the Maori
Contingent, a small contingent of 50 Cook Island Maori and elements of the
Otago Mounted Rifles.

On 9th April  1916 Private Katene as part of the NZ Pioneer Battalion sailed for
France. The NZ Division was moved up to the Armentieres sector of the front to
gain experience in trench warfare. On 15th May 1916 Private Katene was admitted
to No 3 Australian Field Ambulance with Gastric Enteritis remaining in hospital for two weeks before rejoining the
Pioneers. On the 9th September 1916 Private Katene was admitted to hospital a second time being treated at the No 36 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) before being sent to the No 1 General Hospital at Estaples, Private Katene’s military papers note ‘TB Glands neck and Adenitis.’ The condition resulted in Private Katene being evacuated back to the UK on the 17th September 1916 being admitted to the No 2 NZ General Hospital at Walton.

Private Katene remained in hospital until the 4th November 1916 when he was discharged to work at Walton. In January 1917 Private Katene was sent to the Codford Depot for possible redeployment but was again in hospital with glands and later mumps. The ongoing medical issues resulted on 29th May 1917 with Private Katene being sent to Torquay Depot where he was assessed by a medical board which determined that he was unfit for active service on account of TB glands and neck.

Arrangements were then made to return Private Katene to New Zealand and he sailed from England on 23rd July 1917 arriving in New Zealand on 26th September 1917. Private Katene was granted one month’s leave and was finally
discharged from the NZEF on 23rd October 1917 ‘on no longer being physically for  war service on account of pre enlistment disability aggravated by active service’.

Rangiira Wi Katene gave his intended address as Manaia, Taranaki were the family had land.

What happened to him after the war did he return to farming did he marry in Manaia?

Mary his wife and they had 10 children

Rangiira Wi Katene died on 14th January 1934 and is buried in Manaia?[vi]

(possibly use a photo of the grave as back ground to the story )
The descendants of Rangi Ira Wi Katene who provide their treasured photo of their grandfather & great grandfather and provided information on his life following his discahrge from the NZEF.

Four of Rangiira Wi Katene’s brothers also served in the NZ Maori Pioneer Battalion

The military papers listing of  Rangi Ira Wi Katene has been used in this story but family usage is Rangiira Wi Katene 

Archway Archives New Zealand


[i] Archway Archives New Zealand Military files: 16/636 Private Rangi Wi Katene
[ii] NZ BDM
[iii] Uncle Fred’s Vision for Ngati Poneke, 
[iv] Archway Archives New Zealand Military files: 16/636 Private Rangi Wi Katene
[v] Auckland Cenotaph Database
[vi] NZ BDM



Find a appropriate photo Pioneers on Western Front 1916 or grave