Tuesday, March 1, 2011
A Forgotten Soldier
I was driving from Whanganui to New Plymouth last June when I saw a sign at Waitotara (north of Whanganui), pointing to Wairepa Marae, 5km away down a side road. It was early morning and the sun was just coming up, throwing a cautious glow across the tall, dried, maize fields. I ended up driving the full distance of the road and unless I missed a functioning marae down one of the other side roads, all I could find was a derelict little settlement around this war memorial.
There were a few abandoned houses nearby, a few cows, twittering finces and a few plovers. Nothing else. And as I sat there, I thought how sad the whole business seemed. I'm sure surviving members of Willie Karipa's family haven't forgotten him but it did seem a shame that his lichen-covered memorial now sits, shabby and alone in 'the middle of nowhere.' A bit of quick research has found mention of Willie Karipa at the National Army Museum in Waiouru. He's mentioned on the Tears of Greenstone Memorial there. He was just 23 and a member of the 28th Maori Battalion, when he was killed in action in the Western Desert in 1942.