18 October 2019
Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short announced today the inclusion of six Cook Island First World War soldiers in the New Zealand and Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s official rolls of honour.
Ten cases were brought to the attention of New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) historian John Crawford in 2017 by the Cook Islands High Commissioner to New Zealand.
“It has taken a considerable period of time to undertake the detailed and complex research necessary to properly investigate this matter,” Air Marshal Short said.
“The NZDF historian’s comprehensive report on the deaths of these men concludes that there is sufficient evidence to establish that the deaths of six of them were attributable to their First World War service.”
The names of the men are: Privates Nga Naeiti (Service No. 60769); Taria Tearii (also known as Tearii Taria, Service No. 84513); Rangi Tiaure (Service No. 84532); Mareto Tima (Service No. 84541); Banaba Tipe (Service No. 60653); and Terongo Tuakeo (Service No. 19327). All six men developed tuberculosis after their enlistment and died from the disease following their discharge from the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
In the four other cases there was insufficient evidence, such as death certificates and medical records, to support their inclusion on the rolls of honour despite exhaustive research.
“The lack of evidence that these men died as a result of their military service does not detract from the service and sacrifice of these four men who volunteered to serve with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force,” Air Marshal Short said.
“If further information is found regarding these four cases, the NZDF historian would be very pleased to take it into consideration.”
The NZDF acknowledges the assistance given by Cate Walker, Howard Weddell and other researchers to the NZDF historian in the preparation of his report.
The decision has been forwarded to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage for inclusion on the National War Memorial Roll of Honour and to notify the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The full report is attached.