15 Apr 2016

Māori Battalion veteran dies aged 91

2:18 pm on 15 April 2016

Hingangaroa Smith, one of the last surviving members of the Māori Battalion, has died at the age of 91.

The 28th Maori Battalion at a transit camp in Egypt on the morning after their evacuation from Crete, June 1941.

Members of the 28th Māori Battalion at a transit camp in Egypt in June 1941. Photo: DIA / Alexander Turnbull Library

Mr Smith, who was from Te Aitanga-ā-Hauiti, Ngāti Porou and Ngāi Tahu, served with the battalion's C Company during World War II.

He died yesterday in Auckland, and his tangihanga is to be held at his marae in Tolaga Bay.

Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said the nation would remain forever indebted to the Māori Battalion.

"We pay homage to the selfless service of a hero, Hingangaroa Smith, and others of the Māori Battalion who have gone before him," Mr Flavell said.

"Mr Smith had an amazing spirit, and although he didn't often reflect on the atrocities he experienced while in active service in Egypt, he often spoke about missing his comrades he stood shoulder to shoulder with."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters also paid tribute to Mr Smith.

"With another Anzac Day almost upon us, it is the time when we think of war and peace - it will be even more poignant this year with the loss of another Māori Battalion veteran.

"Mr Smith was an example of how young men were prepared to do their duty for their country in World War II. He was raised at Hauiti Pa in Tolaga Bay and lied about his age to join up in 1942, aged only 16," Mr Peters said.

"He served bravely but, as he told a reporter several years ago, he hated war. 'It achieves nothing,' he said."

There are now eight surviving members of the Māori Battalion.

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