62555 Lieutenant Hongi Hau M.I.D – 28th Maori Battalion, 2NZEF

Hongi was born on 13th February 1913 was born in Rawhiti the eldest of five children born to  Pipi (Pipikoneke)  and
Pahi (Wiremu Pahi) Hau from Rawhiti.[i]. Hongi siblings were (. . . .) (1914), Wi Te Kowha/Koha  (1915), (. . . . ) (1916) [ii] and (Haki) Jack later possibly 1918[iii].

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

On 19th July 1940 Hongi enlisted in the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF) The 27 year old is listed as a
single man, living in Porirua and working for Fletcher Construction Ltd as a Steel Worker. Hongi listed his younger brother Jack, also from Porirua, as his next of kin. When Jack enlisted the address was changed to c/- Fort Dorset when Jack went overseas to their father Pahi Hau.

Hongi entered camp with the 5th Reinforcements on 7th January 1941 and following basic training left on 7th April 1941
for overseas service. The 5th Reinforcements reached Egypt on 17th May 1941. The 28th Maori Battalion was in combat
on Crete and it would not be until June 1941 that Private Hau would get to greet his younger brother
39528 Corporal W T K Hau.

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 the German Afrika Korp and their Italian Allies. Following the to and fro action Private 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was withdrawn, along with other NZ units to Egypt then sent to Syria in February 1942 as defence against a possible German threat through that region of the Middle East.

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 22nd October 1942 Private Hau was promoted to
Lance Sergeant prior to the Allied attacks 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. During this action Lance Sergeant Hau’s brother was killed in action[v].

                                                                                                                       Lieutenant Hongi Hau      

The Battle of El Alemein was the beginning of the end for the Axis forces as they were
pushed back, Lance Sergeant Hau was promoted to Sergeant Hau on 2nd February 1943
prior to the Axis Forces surrendering on 13th May 1943 in Tunisia. The 28th Maori Battalion
then returned to Egypt to reequip and retrain. During the period in Egypt Sergeant Hau
was selected as a candidate for the Officer Cadet Training Unit.(OCTU) on 1st October 1943.
Sergeant Hau was appointed to 2nd Lieutenant on 4th February 1944. At this stage the
2NZEF had moved to Italy with the Maori Battalion already had seen action at Orsongna
                                                                                                   and was engaged in operations in the Monte Cassino area. On
                                                                                                   2nd April 1944 the Maori Battalion was preparing to assault the                                                                                                             town of Cassino. During the night move up to forward positions the                                                                                                     Battalion’s diary reports ‘2 casualties caused by Spandau  fire .
                                                                                                   Word received later that one of the casualties was 2/Lt Hau,
                                                                                                   Platoon Commander D Coy.’[vi]

                                                                                                      Wounded at Cassino - NZ War Art 

                                                                                                   2nd Lieutenant Hau suffering a machinegun bullet wound to the
                                                                                                   left shoulder was evacuated to the NZ General Hospital and did
                                                                                                   not return to active service 23rd May 1944. 2nd Lieutenants
                                                                                                   medical records notes that he retained full mobility in the shoulder                                                                                                     ball and joint. 2nd Lieutenant Hau rejoined the Battalion in June                                                                                                           1944 and the 2NZEF continued, with other Allied Forces, to push                                                                                                           German Forces up towards the top of Italy. On 4th February 1945                                                                                                         2nd Lieutenant Hau was promoted to Lieutenant Hau. As the war was drawing to a close older elements in the 2NZEF were replaced by fresh recruits from New Zealand. On 18th February 1945  Lieutenant Hau left Italy returning  to New Zealand arriving in Wellington on 12th May 1945. All German Forces in Italy had surrendered on 2nd May 1945.

Lieutenant Hau in New Zealand gave his intended address as Porirua and following taking overseas leave entitlements was placed in the Officer Reserve on 3rd August 1945.

In January 1946 Lieutenant Hau’s military files note that he was ‘mentioned in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in Italy.

Finally on February 1957 Lieutenant Hau, Porirua, was struck off the Reserve of Officers lists.

Hongi married[vii] and remained in Porirua until his death on 15th August 1974 and is reported buried at Takapu Maori Cemetery[viii], Porirua

Due to privacy laws information on births not over 100 years old or marriages that are less than 80 years old are hard to trace unless family can be contacted.

Two of Hongi’s brothers also served with the 28th Maori Battalion
            39528   Sergeant Wi Te Kowha /Koha  Hau  (see story - while Wi Te Kowha is used in official documents whanau record the name as
            Wi Te Koha )
            415543  Private Jack Hau (story being researched) 

New Zealand Defence Force Archives
28th Maori Battalion website
NZ Defence Force Archives

Monastery at Monte Cassino : Alexander Turnbull Library
Wounded at Monte Cassino-Peter McIntyre: NZ War Art – Archives New Zealand
Lieutenant Hongi Hau: 28th Maori Battalion

[i]     New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Archives: 62555 Lieutenant Hongi Hau.
[ii]    NZ BDM
[iii]   28th Maori Battalion website
[iv]   NZDF Archives
[v]    NZDF Archives: 39528 Sergeant Wi Te Kowha Hau  (see notes) 
[vi]   28th Maori Battalion
[vii]  Note of widow on service file
[viii] Oral information – not confirmed 

Monte Cassino Abbey - 1944