As part of a series of blog publications about the giants that feature in the exhibition, ’Gallipoli: the scale of our war’, and to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Chunuk Bair, I have been asked to write about the two Māori soldiers who are found in the Machine Gunners tableau in Segment Four: Chunuk Bair; Private Rikihana Carkeek, from Ngāti Raukawa and Corporal Friday Hawkins, from Ngāti Kahungunu.
The scene that is recreated in the exhibition is based on a paragraph taken from Rikihana’s diary, that outlines their action during the Battle for Chunuk Bair:
“Chunuk Bair “Sunday, August 8th.
Bullets seemed to be whizzing and sputtering from all sides, right, left and front. Just after our officer, Lieutenant Waldren [Warden], had given us the range he was shot and fell back amongst us in a heap. He managed to say “Carry on boys”, and then died in the arms, I believe, of Private Lucas who was our No. 5 on the gun. Almost immediately after the loss of our leader, our gun corporal Donald Ferris was shot through the head and killed instantly and I dragged him away from the gun and laid him beside our officer. No. 2, Private F. Hawkins, took charge of the gun and I moved into position to feed the belt. Shortly afterwards he was out of action, shot through the wrist. Then I took charge and opened fire at 250 yards. I also did not reign for long for I was shot through the body at the base of neck and out of action. No. 4, Roy Devon, took charge. He was badly wounded, followed by J. Lucas, wounded. I hardly remember what followed afterwards.” 8th August 1915. Carkeek. R. 2003. Home Little Maori Home. Wellington: Totika Publication. p. 79.
Both Friday and Rikihana were soldiers in the Māori Contingent, and found themselves in the same machine gun team positioned on Rhododendron Ridge during the Battle for Chunuk Bair, under the command of the brilliant, Colin Warden (for more about Warden, read this blog here).
One of the key emotional aims of the exhibition was to ensure it maintained focus on the personal stories and experiences of the soldiers featured. In order to continue with this approach, I have asked the families of the soldiers to describe these two men for us, asking them a series of questions and I present their answers here. The answers have been lightly copy-edited but are otherwise exactly as they wrote.
I have separated the profiles into two blogs. This blog, Part Two, is about Rikihana Carkeek, as described by his daughters, Nellie Carkeek, Pareraukawa Duff and his grandson, Te Waari Carkeek.
Private Rikihana Carkeek, 16/256. Māori Contingent: as told by his descendants.
- How would you describe Rikihana?
Te Waari: He was born at a time when the Maori population was at a very low ebb (only about 40, 000 of us left). He was raised by his Rikihana whanau in Ōtaki, who were totally Māori in all they did and valued. He belonged to a warrior line, a fighting whanau of Ngāti Raukawa, his hapū was Ngāti Koroki, Ngāti Waihurihia.
His nick-name Bunny was derived from the time his mother died and he becoming a whānau-pani (bereaved) when his mother died when he was only a baby. The name Pani was anglicised to Bunny by his close relative and stuck for the rest of his life.
His tupuna was Wi Te Manewha who would have held Rikihana in his arms when he was only a baby.
Te Manewha died in 1891. A portrait copy of Te Manewha by Lindauer was in his collection of personal belongings and is prized by us, his descendants. All his life he was a great observer of what was happening around him and he recorded those things in a daily diary he kept up to the time he died. As well as his war diary he recorded daily life where ever he lived – Ōtaki, Rangiotu, Manakau and Picton.
Nellie and Pareraukawa: Our Father and Mother were involved all their lives with their church and their marae, father in later years with the R.S.A. They had eleven children, five of the youngest are still alive.
He was very eccentric in many ways; this was, we feel, fuelled by the war. He would probably have liked to have run the household along military lines if it hadn’t been for the fact his youngest children were mainly girls; he definitely would have given it a go.
Dad was a great entertainer and was often called on to officiate at local events, fundraising, concerts during and after the war. We remember him as kind and loving to us, and our Mother. Although our Father went on to France after the Dardanelles campaign, it was Gallipoli he always spoke about. If he heard any of us complain about food, we were told quite forcefully of the conditions the men experienced in the trenches on Gallipoli, he reckoned a few days of that would set us straight.
- What are the enduring memories / family stories about Rikihana?
Te Waari: Many of my elder brothers and sisters spent many hours with Rikihana when they were growing up. I was three years old when he died and only have faint memories of him. I appear with my father in the background picture of him at his home in Ōtaki in 1963.
My impressions and recollections have been passed down to me through my elder siblings but I feel a close connection to him because many of his personal things came to stay at our home after he died.
By all accounts he was a very hard worker and a great provider of food and lodging for his whole family. He raised his family on his ancestral lands in Ōtaki. He entertained and regaled his visitors with songs, tales and poetry from a very extensive repertoire both in Te Reo Māori and English. He developed this love of singing from a very young age along with his Rikihana, Hapeta and Tahiwi whanaunga. By joining the local minstrels’ troup he learned to entertain people. My elder brothers and sisters remember his passion for amusement in particular. He could certainly entertain the troops as they would say and he was often the MC for local family celebrations.
He also led on Raukawa Marae and spoke on the Marae to welcome guests from many different walks of life. Keeping in touch with local politics and Marae committee activities he was a councillor on Ōtaki Borough Council for a short term.
He and his wife Pareraukawa were inseparable and they together kept a full household of many children and many mokopuna organised, engaged and in working order. He also kept close contact with his Raukawa whānau, the Rikihana whānau in particular.
Other Raukawa men like the Tahiwi whānau were also part of the Pioneer Māori Battalion at Gallipoli. His relatives had great respect for him as did his peers. Another thing was his undying loyalty to God. King and Country, he never waived from his values while maintaining a stiff upper lip and acting in the proper way in all his dealings.
Apparently he and our father argued a lot, our father was his eldest son and both men had served in a world War, our father was in the Second World War and Rikihana would often call into to see his son and whānau, we lived only a short distance from his home. They both had a very deep connection through the secret hurts they shared as Returned Service men. Our mother would feed them and leave them to their business, grudges could not be kept because they both enjoyed life and their families too much to hold any resentment. With a full puku of food, liquor and a belly full of laughs, it was then the mokopuna would sneak in to listen to them talk and debate.
Nellie and Pareraukawa: He became the Marshal at the Anzac Parades, a position he enjoyed and took seriously. I make mention here of one occasion the Scout Master decided to withdraw his troop as it began to rain. “Bunny” (people called him Bunny), “the lads will get too wet in this rain”. “What!”, replied my father, “how the hell will they be able to fight the Hun if they can’t put up with getting wet?” Shades of Dad’s Army.
We teenagers around that time referred to him as “Gallipoli”.
- Was remembering WWI an important thing for Rikihana?
Te Waari: Yes WW1 was extremely important to him. He was the man in Ōtaki who rallied the Returned Service men each year on Anzac Day and was often at the front leading the march. As children my brothers and sisters and other children ran alongside the marches following them to the cenotaph on Anzac Days. He never missed an Anzac ceremony. He would be proud that he and his comrades are being honoured in such a significant way through the exhibitions both here at Te Papa and up at Pukeahu. The Chunuk Bair ceremony on 8th August this year is so important because our some very brave Raukawa tūpuna were there in that battle.
- How have your family felt seeing Rikihana play such a prominent part in the exhibition at Te Papa?
Te Waari: It has been a great experience for the family from the opening event and subsequent visits made by individual family members. The attention it has gained is a very uplifting and spiritual experience for all his descendants. It puts into focus the great bravery and sacrifice they made for God, King and Country.
Seeing him as a young man at Te Aute and then seeing him return to New Zealand he looks like a changed man. His pictures show the changes that occurred to him and to many other young men through being involved in this horrible war. His descendants are very proud and it makes us feel privileged and deeply humbled by seeing him in the exhibition we have all been very moved indeed.
Nellie and Pareraukawa: Our family were absolutely surprised and thrilled to see our father portrayed in such a way just as he would have been, because Gallipoli had such a profound effect on him.
- What lessons about war and WWI do you think Rikihana would want visitors to the exhibition to take away?
Te Waari: He never lost who he was, his Māori heritage, his Māori language and his appreciation of whānau. He retained his faith in God under great pressure and unusual circumstances. He represents to us that war and all its hype is a futile activity and that war should not be the last resort to solving our world’s complex problems. War is for mad-men or for evil men, because sane men would never consider war to be an option for settling disputes. War is for egotistical beings and humans beings, so fragile in nature, are fodder for this mass tyranny. Living in a peaceful place like Aotearoa is a God-send, it is the best place to live, raise a family and appreciate our gifts. We should all value our home, our peacefulness and the opportunities we have for education because through enlightenment many ordinary every day difficulties can be overcome and our lives improved.
Nellie and Pareraukawa: The futility and brutality of war, and the fact that two of his sons served in the Second World War and future generations could be subjected to the same horrors.
- Do you have any thoughts you would like to share with visitors to the Gallipoli exhibition?
Te Waari: To me the Gallipoli Exhibition is much like a sacred journey, much like a pilgrimage into the underworld of Hinenuitepō (Goddess of Death). The exhibition is in parts modelled on a battle ground and in this respect, it must be approached in a respectful way. The exhibition for some is an emotional river or lake with depth beyond our normal every day senses and it allows you to get lost in your feelings albeit for just a moment when you are confronted by the poignancy of the giant models and listen to the music and the amazing stories played out in each bell jar. It is a total submersion of sight, sound and experiences.
After all these months it is still very moving and well worth a couple more visits but can be emotional taxing on some so take your time to give it the respect it deserves.
Nellie and Pareraukawa: I think that we do need to honour those who fought for their country but war is not something to be glorified. Humanity has been at war with one another since time immemorial. To reverse this process would take something like divine intervention.
My thanks to Te Waari Carkeek, Pareraukawa Duff and Nellie Carkeek, for their time and consideration.
Find out more
Carkeek’s Story – Gallipoli: The scale of our war website
Chunuk Bair – Gallipoli: The scale of our war website