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