NZDF Whānau prepare to meet Private Hemi Rewharewha

By Heeni Brown
  • Auckland
  • Waikato/Bay of Plenty

Two 20-person contingents, including the NZDF Māori Cultural group, from New Zealand are set to attend Anzac Day services in Belgium and France.

Sylvia and Brent Pene are part of the contingent and are practising haka-items at the New Zealand Defence Force’s Whenuapai base over the next two days in preparation for their very first Anzac ceremony in Belgium.

They’re also set to honour the service and sacrifice of all New Zealand personnel and support established local communities' Anzac Day services, but there will be one particular soldier they will be holding very close to their hearts.

“This kaupapa is quite a personal one visiting my koroua, Private Hemi Rewharewha, it’s going to be quite a hard haerenga,” says Sylvia Brent.

Over 12,000 New Zealand soldiers and airmen from the First and Second World Wars are buried and memorialised in Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries in Belgium and France.

Sylvia Brent of Ngāi Tai, Te Whakatōhea and Te Aitanga a Mahaki descent says her great grand uncle Private Hemi Rewharewha will be the key focus of her Anzac Day this year.

Rewharewha, son of Ritihia and Rewharewha Putiki served in World War 1 and died December 31st 1917 at the tender age of 21 years.

“A couple of years ago they dug up his medal that was sent home to parents whose sons were killed in action and that was just overwhelming for the family to come across it, but for me on a personal level I felt the pouri of his māma Ritihia Honatana i Ngāi Tai ki Tōrere, to me it was a medal that could never replace her son,” says Sylvia Brent.

Sylvia and Brent Pene, along with the NZDF Māori Cultural group leave New Zealand for Europe on Sunday.

Our reporter Heeni Brown with this story on Te Kāea, 5:30pm.