18 July 2018
While Leading Aircraftman Shari Auld is in Europe this month to march in the Belgian National Day military parade, she’ll also be undertaking a very personal pilgrimage on behalf of her whānau.
On Saturday the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is providing a 43-member contingent to march in the Belgian National Day military parade in Brussels. The contingent will comprise personnel from the three Services and will be led by a Māori cultural element of taua (warriors).
They will march with contingents from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the Belgian Armed Forces, to mark the First World War centenary.
As part of the contingent’s pre-march programme, they will visit First World War battlefields in Belgium and France, giving personnel the opportunity to visit the graves of relatives killed during the war.
Leading Aircraftman Auld, from Wairoa, wasn’t aware if any of her whānau served in the First World War until she asked her father.
“A lot of the older ones in the family are gone now, so we have to rely on those that the stories were passed down to,” she said.
Her father sent her a list of relatives who had served in the Māori Contingent’s 20th Reinforcements. The 30 names he highlighted were all from Wairoa, and all but three survived the First World War. Two died from injuries after returning to New Zealand and one, Private Meihana Karauria, died in France on 24 July, 1918.
Leading Aircraftman Auld said it would be a humbling experience to pay respects at Private Karauria’s grave at the centenary of his death.
“I will carry the strength and the spirit of my whānau with me, so Private Karauria knows that we still remember him.
“It’s also a reminder to take the time to talk to older members of my whanau, so I can pass their stories on to my kids and them to theirs. It’s a story they can be proud of and hopefully it will be an inspiration to travel and visit these places in the future.”
Leading Aircraftman Auld joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 2003, straight out of school, for the lifestyle, camaraderie and on-the-job training. She is currently supporting maintenance tasks for No.3 Squadron, which operates NH90 and A109 helicopters at Base Ohakea.