16/635 Lance Corporal Taku Katene  NZ Maori Pioneer Battalion

Of Ngati Toa descent Taku Katene was born 1st  February 1895 in Porirua, Wellington[i], the son of Wiremu Tipo and
Hareti (also known as Karani) Te Kairangi Katene[ii].
On the 16th November 1899 Hareti died, possibly from pleurisy[ii] shortly after the birth of the couple’s youngest daughter, Huria Ngarongoa Katene. The family was split some of the going with Wiremu, others to the whanau in Porirua and the youngest three; Frederick, Manu and Huria Ngarongoa Katene to the Anglican orphanage in Motueka.[iii]
It is possible that Taku, like his older brother Rangiira also spent time at the orphanage as he was not enrolled at Porirua School until 1903 when he was 8.[iv]

On 1st July 1915 Taku Katene enlisted in the 2nd Maori Reinforcements, New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF). Taku is listed as being employed as a farm hand on the farm of Mr Jas Wall Snr. Porirua and his next of kin, Mr Wi Katene,
Lyall Bay, Wellington. 16/635 Private Katene entered camp with two of his brothers older brother 16/636 Private Rangiira
Wi Katene and younger brother 16/792 Private Frederick Bennett Wi Katene.

Following basic training the three brothers 16/635 Private Taku, 16/636 Private Rangiira  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].

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 January 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. The Pioneer Battalion provided support
during the Battle of the Somme and Private Katene remained
in France until January 1917 when he was given leave. While
on leave Private Katene was admitted to the 2nd Scottish
General Hospital, Edinburgh with Catarrhal Appendicitis[vi]
it was not until 31st May 1917 that he was fit enough to return
to the front. Private Katene rejoined the Pioneer Battalion on
12th June 1917 the Battalion was engaged in linking the
Messines Ridge to forward defence lines following success in
the Battle of Messines.  

On the 1st September 1917 with sufficient Maori
reinforcements arriving the NZ Pioneer Battalion became a
fully Maori unit the NZ Maori Pioneer Battalion.
                                                                                                                 NZ Maori Pioneer Battalion members at the Front

On 27th April 1918 Private Taku Katene was promoted to Lance Corporal Katene remaining with the Maori Pioneers to
the end of the war and was then repatriated to England for shipment back to New Zealand.  Lance Corporal Katene left Liverpool on 28th February 1919 on the Westmoreland with other members of the NZ Maori Pioneer Battalion including two of his brothers, 19927 Corporal Hari Wi Katene and 37771 Private Joe Bird Cotton (Manu Katene) and cousin
16/282 Lance Corporal Whararua (Rua) Parata. Lance Corporal Katene arrived back in New Zealand on 6th April 1919
and on 4th May 1919, following a month’s leave on was discharged  ‘on termination of his period of engagement.’

Later that year there was a Porirua Festival[vii] reported on 22nd July 1919 at which all servicemen from the district were commemorated. The Honour Roll of the Porirua School was unveiled, it listed the 45 men with connections to the school who had served in WW1. In the list of returned servicemen was Corporal Katene, likely to be Taku.

                                                                                                                                  On the 12th November 1919 there was a family                                                                                                                                        wedding when a cousin Tara Parata married                                                                                                                                              Herani Pene[viii], his two groomsmen were his                                                                                                                                          brother Rau and cousin Taku. Given the wedding                                                                                                                                      day was one day after the first anniversary of the                                                                                                                                      1918 Armistice both Taku and Rau are in uniform.

                                                                                                                                  Taku Katene (left ) Tara and Rau Parata                                     

                                                                                                                                                     Taku had married two weeks earlier on
                                                                                                                                   30th October 1919 to Eleanor Te Anau Keach[ix]

                                                                                                                                   The Katene’s lived in Porirua with Eleanor                                                                                                                                                   Te  Anau Katene dying in 1940 and Taku Katene
                                                                                                                                    on 6th June 1971 his death reported by
                                                                                                                                    Mrs Florence C Katene, 13 Te Arawi Street,                                                                                                                                                  Porirua.[x]

Four of Taku's brothers also served with the NZ Maori Pioneer Battalion
16/792  Lance Corporal Frederick Bennett Wi Katene
19927   Corporal Hari Wi Katene
16/636  Private Rangiira Wi Katene
37771   Private Manu Katene - served as Joe Bird Cotton 

Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files
Paperspast Online
Uncle Fred’s Vision for Ngati Poneke: Te Maori vol 2 Feb 1974
Porirua School Jubilee 1873 – 1948

NZ Maori Battalion members on Western Front: Royal RSA Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library 
NZ Maori Battalion members haka for the NZ PM - June 1918: Royal RSA Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library
Taku Katene with his Parata cousins 12th November 1919: Pataka Museum collection 

[i] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 16/635 Lance Corporal Taku Katene
[ii] Katene family oral history
[iii] Uncle Fred’s vision for Ngati Poneke
[iv] Porirua Class List
[v] Auckland Cenotaph Database
[vi] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 16/635
[vii] Porirua Festivals, 22nd July 1919, Evening Post
[viii] Marriage Pene / Parata: NZ BDM 1919/8277
[ix] Marriage Keach/ Katene: NZ BDM 1919/8209
[x] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 16/635 Lance Corporal Taku Katene

NZ Maori Pioneer Battalion Haka June 1918