We Forget:- Private Vilipate of Niue Maori Bn NZEF
World War Memorial Plaque: Diameter 4.75 inches - Cast in Bronze
Images and most text by Shaun Aumua
chance discovery at an Epsom market by a prominent Auckland collector uncovered a find which is the subject of this article. On
the surface the Memorial Plaque is like any other with the exception that
the unfortunate soldier bears what is obviously a Polynesian name – Bili
Pati. A subsequent search of New Zealand Defence Force and Commonwealth
War Graves Commission databases uncovers the fact that no person by that
name exists and the plaque is one of the many naming errors that are seen
with ethnic soldiers.
research and a process of deduction lead to the conclusion that the
soldier was most likely Private Vilipate 16/1178 of the Niue Detachment to
the 3rd Maori Reinforcement from the village of Liku Niue. As
Vilipate had left Niue and gone to New Zealand but had not
proceeded overseas on active duty the plaque would be his only
to Margaret Pointer in her book “My Heart is Crying a Little” Vilipate
was the first Niuean to pass away while enlisted in the NZEF. He fell ill
with double pneumonia on 15th December and passed away 10 days later on
25th December 1915. He was subsequently buried at O'Neills Point Cemetery
on 27th December 1915, his burial service being conducted by 16/1176
add even more confusion to the issue the CWGC lists this soldier as
16/1178 Vipata and it is this name that is inscribed on his headstone but
no service number is inscribed. There also exists a discrepancy on
his headstone were his unit is given as Maori Reinforcements, the CWGC
site has him as NZ Training Unit yet he was clearly part of the Cook
described the attestation process in Niue was a lengthy process with each
question having to be read out then translated to Niuean. The recruits
answer was then translated into English and recorded on the form.
this document only adds to the confusion by using the name Vilipate
although this name is also used on the official communication from the
Niue Island Administration to the c/o 3rd Maori Reinforcements
confirming Vilipate's parents had been informed of his death. On the
memorial on Niue he is commemorated as 16/1178 Vilipate.
last official clue to the identity of this south sea volunteer is entry
number 36 in the Devonport Register book of deaths dated 25th
December 1915. This shows that a Valipata of Lota Niue died of
is a man who paid the ultimate price commemorated is such a haphazard
way? The obvious language challenges contributed but I imagine
colonialism also played a part. Perhaps future generations of Niueans will seek Vilipate using the usual methods and will miss the opportunity
to pay their respects to one of their forefathers - the confusion over
his name will not make their task easy. As military historians we have a
responsibility to those that fell to ensure they are commemorated
correctly. With Polynesians your name is your link to your lineage and
the mana of your bloodline and as such it is of utmost importance that
his sacrifice is correctly acknowledged.
entry in the Devonport register of births, deaths and marriages 1915
(O'Neill's Point) Cemetery, North
Shore, New Zealand
N.Z. Training Unit
who died on
Saturday, 25th December 1915.
(O'Neill's Point) Cemetery, North Shore City, New Zealand
G, Plot 126.
cemetery is in King Edward Avenue, Belmont, Auckland (North
Shore). There are 42 Commonwealth burials of the 1914-1918 war and
12 of the 1939-1945 war here.
Commonwealth Memorial Plaques
way through the First World War it was announced that next of kin of all
soldiers from within the British Commonwealth, whose deaths were
attributable to the War would receive a memorial plaque and scroll.
1917 a competition was announced to obtain a suitable design and 800
entries were eventually received. The winner, Mr. E. Carter Preston of
Liverpool England was chosen in 1918. He was awarded a prize of 250
pounds sterling currency.
Mr. Manning Pike directed manufacture of the memorial plaques at the
'Memorial Plaque Factory' set up at Acton London England. Some later
plaques were made at Woolwich Arsenal London. Each plaque had the name
of the soldier commemorated, individually embossed (although later some
as part of the design. The soldiers full name was given without any
indication of rank or honours to show equality of sacrifice of all those
who lost their lives.
First World War
scroll seven inches wide by eleven inches in height was designed to
accompany the plaque and was of thick paper bearing the following
whom this scroll commemorates was numbered among those who, at the
call of King and Country, left all that was dear to them, endured
hardness, faced danger, and finally passed out of the sight of men by
the path of duty and self-sacrifice, giving up their own lives that
others might live in freedom. Let those who come after see to it that
his name is not forgotten.'
plaques were enclosed in an envelope measuring five inches square, the
flap of the envelope was embossed with the royal coat of arms. This in
turn was enclosed in a thick cardboard container for dispatch to the
next of kin, included was a small 'with compliments' slip.
Previously published in
The Volunteers, journal of the New Zealand Military Historical