SERGEANT Daniel Hapuku will make a special trip while in Belgium to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele to visit the grave of his great-uncle.
Sergeant Hapuku is a Platoon Sergeant with 2/1 Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, based in Burnham. His whanau is originally from the East Coast and Hawke’s Bay but he calls Invercargill home.
His family has a long and proud association with the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF). Both of his parents and several cousins served in the New Zealand Army, and a cousin is currently serving in the Royal New Zealand Navy.
“This association goes right back to the First World War, where my great-uncle, Private Manukura Karamaene Hapuku, served with the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion – 10th Reinforcements,” Sergeant Hapuku said.
The New Zealand Pioneer Battalion was held in high esteem on the Western Front. Its members were renowned for their talent in building roads to allow convoys to get to the front and for their skill in digging long and intricate communication trenches. They were known as the “Digging Battalion” and the men received the famous “Diggers” title.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that the term ‘Digger’ is an Australian one. It’s New Zealand Pioneer and they are still justifiably proud of it,” Sergeant Hapuku said.
While not a front-line fighting unit, the Pioneers undertook essential and dangerous work, often under fire. This was particularly true at the battles of Messines and Passchendaele. And it was at Passchendaele that Private Manukura Hapuku was killed in action on December 7, 1917, aged 22.
“I am incredibly proud to be selected to join the NZDF contingent travelling to Belgium to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele and will take the opportunity to visit the grave of my great-uncle,” Sergeant Hapuku said.
“We will be paying tribute to those brave New Zealand soldiers who, a century ago, came halfway around the world to fight for what they saw as a just cause. We honour them and all those who, like Private Manukura Hapuku, never came home.
“Ka maumahara tonu tatou ki a ratou. We will remember them.”
The New Zealand National Commemorative Service for the Battle of Passchendaele centenary is at Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium, today. A sunset ceremony will also be held at Buttes New British Cemetery.The national ceremony at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, Wellington, will be live streamed on the WW100 website ww100.govt.nz and on its Facebook page from 3pm, Thursday, October 12.