Staff Sergeant Mike Te Hau (right) takes part in the Last Post service at the Menin Gate, laying a wreath with other Anzac Day Western Front contingent members
23 April 2017
Staff Sergeant (SSGT) Michael Te Hau is in France and Belgium as part of the New Zealand Defence Force contingent for the 2017 Anzac Day commemorations on the Western Front, where he has a special job and family connections to attend to.
He is leading the New Zealand Defence Force Maori Cultural Group through the many services and commitments the group has in both countries.
Passionate about kapa haka, SSGT Te Hau is the marae manager at the New Zealand Army Marae, Rongomaraeroa o nga hau e wha, and is also the Maori cultural advisor for the New Zealand Army.
Born in Gisborne and raised in Rangitukia on the East Coast, SSGT Te Hau is the eldest boy of 11 children and after attending Gisborne Boys’ High school followed a family tradition of joining the Army.
“My father has now passed on, but he was a soldier of the 28th Maori Battalion, C Company.”
While in France SSGT Te Hau will be thinking about two of his relatives: Private Pera Te Hau and Private Taka Kara. The two young cousins from the same town on the East Coast joined the 2nd Maori Pioneer Battalion, fought and died alongside each other on the same day on April 5 1918, and now lie side by side at Bertrancourt Military Cemetery in France.
It was on the Western Front that New Zealand made its most significant contribution to the First World War, and also where New Zealand suffered the greatest loss of life.
“I used to attend Anzac Day services with my father and wondered why the people there cried. Now I feel very proud to be able to go to these places where my relatives fought and represent them and the rest of New Zealand as part of the Defence Force.”
“These are places I have only heard about and now I am going to be able to walk among them. What an awesome experience to be able to have.”
The contingent has conducted battlefield tours to learn about the battles that took place in the region and visited several cemeteries while overseas to pay their respects to the fallen, as well as taking part in the official services.
Information about the Anzac Day-related ceremonies and First World War commemorations can be found at WW100.govt.nz/international-commemorations.