More than 200 people gathered at Manuka Point in the Chatham Islands yesterday to lay to rest the last remaining officer of the 28th Māori Battalion.
Lieutenant Alfred 'Bunty' Preece died on Friday morning at the age of 96.
He was a father of seven children, a husband and a community man, but his life was also remembered as one of extraordinary survival in a war where thousands of New Zealanders lost their lives.
In his opening address, Defence Minister Ron Mark acknowledged his service.
"He answered the call to arms to defend our way of life against one of the most professional, well-trained, best-equipped, best-organised military forces of evil to ever have threatened mankind and the free world and our way of life.
"Bunty you did that, and you didn't have to. Because after all, the Chatham Islands is about as far away to the horrors in the war in Europe as you could have imagined. But like so many, Bunty, you answered the call and volunteered."
The Māori Battalion suffered twice the number of casualties of any other New Zealand infantry unit during the Second World War, losing 660 of its men.
Lieutenant Alfred Preece was the commissioned officer in charge of 16 platoon of the Battalion's D company.
While fighting in Monte Cassino in Italy, he suffered an injury that could have killed him, but three months later he was back fighting in the front line.
His son Alfred Preece Junior said his dad would have done anything for the battalion.
"It's loyalty. When we had the flag debate, sorry it makes me emotional, he was completely opposed to any change in the flag for the reason that so many of his colleagues had died under that flag, so very loyal."
Family and close friends said he never spoke about his time in service.
They remembered a man who was more than just a soldier, but a fisherman, a chef, a teacher and the heart of the Chatham Islands.
Mr Preece said his father lived a long life, and fought until the very end.
"His one doctor gave up making predictions of how long he was going to live many years ago, but he was a soldier, had to make sure everyone was taken care of. The last man to leave the ship."
Robert Gillies, Epineha Ratapu and Watchman Waaka are the last living soldiers of the Māori Battalion.
Mr Preece said its legacy and his father's would live on forever.