Maori soldiers that served at Gallipoli

Maori soldiers that served at Gallipoli

In our second blog ahead of our new exhibition Gallipoli: The scale of our war opening on April 18, Maori curator Puawai Cairns reveals some of her research into a Maori soldier that served at Gallipoli.

Photo credit: Norm Heke © Te Papa
Photo by Norm Heke, Te Papa

Unlike many of the other Maori soldiers I researched for this exhibition, 2nd Lieutenant Thomas Marshall Percy Grace (10/127 Hawkes Bay Coy / Ruahine Coy, Wellington Regiment, Ngati Tuwharetoa) has a large amount of detail available about his life and family.

Portrait, Auckland Weekly News 1915
Portrait, Auckland Weekly News 1915

Known as Haami to his family (born 11 July 1890) he descended from some very illustrious lineage. His maternal grandfather was Horonuku Te Heuheu Tukino IV, paramount chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa; and on his paternal side, Haami’s grandfather was the missionary, Thomas Samuel Grace. Haami’s parents, Kahui and Lawrence, were to have a large family, and Haami grew up to be a very successful sportsman in cricket and rugby (see this great blog from the Cricket Museum for more about that).

Ultimately, Haami was to serve and die at Gallipoli, perishing alongside most of the Wellington Regiment on the summit of Chunuk Bair. His two brothers, Lawrence and Richard, also served during WWI.

Sons of Lawrence Marshall Grace and Te Kahui Grace. Photograph taken in 1911 by S P Andrew Ltd. From left: Haami, Lawrence, Richard. Photo courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library.
Sons of Lawrence Marshall Grace and Te Kahui Grace. Photograph taken in 1911 by S P Andrew Ltd. From left: Haami, Lawrence, Richard. Photo courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library.

While most of my research into Haami has been via archival sources, I did travel to Taupo to visit a niece of Haami’s, the very lovely Wene McMillin, who had a few years earlier gifted Haami’s diary and belongings to his old high school, Wellington College. Wene was much too young to remember Haami, however she shared a story about her mother (young sister of Haami), waving sadly to him as a child as his train pulled out of Wellington en-route to camp.

Haami wrote entries in his diary from his arrival in Egypt and through the first few months of his time at Gallipoli. His diary has never been published and while not enormously detailed, gives some insight into the Gallipoli campaign as seen through his eyes. He describes the landscape, the movement of allied troops all over the peninsula in the struggle to gain land from the defending Turks, and his eventual assignation as sniper commander.

Sniping teams worked in pairs, one on the rifle and the other on the spotting telescope.Gresson, Kenneth MacFarlane, 1891-1974: Photographs of the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey during World War One.
Sniping teams worked in pairs, one on the rifle and the other on the spotting telescope. World War I soldiers in a trench during the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey. Gresson, Kenneth MacFarlane, 1891-1974: Photographs of the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey during World War I, and photographs of ships in a bay. Ref: PAColl-3604-04. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Haami was given command of the first New Zealand sniper detachment assembled for a campaign, leading a team of hand-picked sharpshooters near and around the allied positions on the peninsula. His success was to be specifically referred to by another renowned soldier at Gallipoli, Captain Jesse Wallingford:

Until the New Zealanders occupied Monash Gully there used to be 30 to 40 Australians ‘potted’ daily. This was soon put a stop to. Snipers were organised, with Lieutenant Grace, a Trentham man, in command. They had their regular ‘pot-holes’, two in each, with a telescope. That did the trick.

Captain Wallingford to Major M. Atkinson. Dominion, 10 December 1915, p. 6.

You can meet Haami and other soldiers of Maori descent in our Gallipoli: The scale of our war exhibition opening on 18 April.



  1. Kiaora Thia, Te Paea Pitiroi is the older sister to my grandfather Tuatangata Pitiroi (Ngati Ruingarangi, Te Rangiita Marae, Nukuhau, Taupo).

    My grandmother is ‘Makareta Hinewai Pitiroi (nee Grace) she one of the sisters to all those handsome brothers in the photograph. She married my grandfather Tuatangata Pitiroi. She is my namesake.

    Such a small world, we are all whanau.

    Makareta Hohua

  2. Many of Thomas & Agnes children lived in the Nelson area numerous grandsons attending Nelson College all around the same period. Names and photographs can be viewed online Nelson Museum. Currently cropping photographs and validating information for future generations to view. Note I’m not a Grace but know and schooled with many Grace Whanau in Turangi

  3. My grandmother’s husband, Lionel Hughes, was surveying in 1921 around Tokaanu and died of peritonitis, leaving his young family and widow in Rotorua. My mother was 3 months old but in the late 60s she returned there and met an old man called ? Grace who knew the circumstances of her father’s death. Wld anyone know who he might have been? I may have a photo of him somewhere. Cheers Craig Wallace

  4. Kia Ora Puawai I am a grandniece of the three Grace brothers in photo above, their sister Makareta (Margaret) Hinewai Grace ( 1)Mrs Barling (2) Mrs Pitiroi was my grandmother. The family was large and spread far and wide, from the United Kingdom, Australia, and all throughout the north and south island of NZ. coast to coast Ngati Tuwharetoa. It would be fair to say that most all Grace people in NZ are connected. I am also grandniece to bothers Arther Owen Downes and Albert Downes, Ruki (Lockie) Rogers Digger Company Ngapuhi Some of many uncle’s not returned. Great mahi mana to these warriors Puawai thankyou……

  5. Our primary school is taking part the Fields of Remembrance white crosses project. We have been given 30 crosses to “plant” and also the names of soldiers. One of our soldiers is Thomas Marshall Grace. Do you know if he has any descendants living in Wellington? They might be interested in attending our special service.

    1. Author

      His niece will be in Wellington for the opening of the exhibition so we’ll pass this onto her then and come back to you.

    2. My Grandmother was Thomas Marshall Grace (Haami)’s older sister, Agnes Grace, (Nessie). Agnes had 3 sons: My father (Lawrence McRae), Peter Ornberg, and Marshall (Haami) Ornberg. All three fought in the Maori battalion during WW2, Peter died in action, aged 24. Haami and Lawrence (my father) returned. My father, Lawrence, was the Commander of D company and 2IC of the Battalion and was awarded the MIlitary Cross in recognition of his actions during the battle of Monte Cassino. He died in 1993 at the age of 79.

  6. It goes back to the original families, from the histories of how the land was divided and who the main tipuna were. There are still the old stories of how they got their land, especially up the Whanganui River, during the claim only certain descendants had lands up the river and others their lands were else where, e.g. lake taupo

  7. Interested in Gallipoli 2 uncles killed there .Royal Dublin Fusiliers April 1915 .

  8. would he by chance related to John Leybourne GRACE who is mentioned on his family plot at Clareville and the Carterton./Greytown War Memorials please… seeing Grace, it was a family who were in early Wellington and Wainuiomata as well as up here at Gladstone, I know there is a Maori connection in the family. I had a enquiry from UK for Grace family the other year, she was looking for the family that I know off.. thanks..

    1. Lawrence Grace is the son of Thomas Grace. Thomas lived in Turangi and in Tauranga, his sons (including a John Grace) lived in the Turangi area. They are a well documented/recorded family – Thomas was an early missionary, Lawrence was an MP, he and his brother John were well known officials with the Native Department. The family was centered in the Taupo/King Country area. The Grace family are still well known and established in the Taupo/Turangi area. I don’t think its the same family as the Wairarapa Graces

    2. Thank you for your query. A commentator has correctly mentioned that Haami’s family lived in the Taupo region for a time; their homestead was on the shores of Lake Taupo at Pukawa. There is a Grace family on the East Coast that isn’t related to Haami’s family. However I will ask Wene, Haami’s niece, about any connections to Wairarapa.

    3. in answer to my own question, not related to the Grace family featured, even though there is a Maori connection with the family.. Thank you..

  9. Love it Puawai. Really interesting. Such handsome boys!

    1. Handsome indeed! And these handsome men were half brothers to my grandfather Taite te Popo another handsome man. His mother was Kahui, her first Husband was Wiremu te Riu.

      Taite was married to Te Paea Pitiroi – my grandmother

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