Saturday, 26th day (28 April 1917)

Life-boat drill: – Four blasts of the whistle sounded about 11 a.m. and we all feel down the gangways, donned out life-belts, and “fell in” round our life boats.  This usually occurs on Saturday mornings.  News is very scarce with us.  If I repeat, that I have, on several occasions, obtained uninterrupted views of the vasty deep, I exhaust the day’s possibilities.

Wednesday (Anzac Day) (25 April 1917)

Beautiful weather and quite warm.  Came off boat guard about 9 a.m. and have been pretty sleepy all day.  Patriotic speeches made by officers and chaplain this afternoon.  Am trying to grow a moustache.  Coleridge knew something when he said “The sky and the sea and the sea and the sky, lay like a load on my weary eye”.  And yet he had never been on the ocean, which shows the power of imagination.  Further war news received by wireless.  For some time past the ship’s lights have been darkened.  Even the usual masthead navigation lights extinguished.

Monday, 21st day (23 April 1917)

All boats have now been swung out in readiness and an extra guard mounted.  Saw a remarkable rainbow this morning, encircling the stern of the ship; quite small and almost the entire circle visible owing to its unusual nearness.  Nurse said Kokiri was the perfect gentleman and that right up to his last gasp he always thanked them for anything done for him.  Only when he was delirious did he speak in Maori showing that his education (Te Aute) was so complete that he normally thought in English.  Received wireless news today, the first we have had of the outside world.

Tango Kokiri, Obiit. April 21 1917

IN the great depths of the Southern Sea,

Our comrade we’ve left at rest.

Leader and Chief of an ancient race,

Not yours the foe to bravely face!

What have you left behind?

An echo of courage and courtly mien,

A memory—merry and kind,

And “ greater love ” can as well be shown

By the passing away of a soul alone,

In the midst of a lonely sea.

What is the requiem song?

The tumble of wave, and the wind’s sad moan,

The albatross wheeling in flight,

Not the crash, and hurtle, and shriek of shell,

Or the triumph of battle’s might:

The ship sails on.   J. M. W.

HE was buried at sea with full military honours.  He had given his life for King and Country just as surely as if he had fallen in action.  A thousand men stood at attention as the body in its canvas shroud, draped with the Union Jack, was borne to the ship’s side by a party of officers, the band meanwhile playing “Rock of Ages.”  Behind the body came the men of the 15th Maori Reinforcement with arms reversed.  They made no attempt to hide their tears as they formed up in four ranks and stood with bowed heads, resting on their reversed arms beside the body of their beloved chief.  There was more than a suspicion of tears in the eyes of most of us.

The burial service was read by Captains A. J. Seamer and A. Allen, Chaplains to the Forces—by the former in Maori, and by the latter in English.  The great ship was stopped for the first time since leaving New Zealand, more than 6,000 miles away. She rested on the heaving sea while the great albatrosses wheeled and hovered above her.  The reading of the burial service was followed by a short prayer.  Then the flag was lifted from the shrouded body, which we saw for a moment before it disappeared into the sea.  A word of command brought the Maoris to attention, and they filed away to the ship’s side.  Three volleys were fired, and the sharp reports of the rifles were followed by the clear notes of the bugles sounding the “Last Post.”  A signal to the bridge caused the engines to move again, and the ship was soon on her way once more.

[Note – this obituary was published in the shipboard souvenir magazine Tiki Talk: Epistles of the Corinthians, 23rd Reinforcements New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Argus Printing Company, London, June 1917, p.11, copy held by Auckland War Memorial Museum, D526.2 TIK]

Tango Kokiri

[Note – this image is sourced from the Auckland War Memorial Museum “He Toa Raumata Rau: Online Cenotaph”, which provides a range of information on Lt Kokiri. See:  The Online Cenotaph also allows family members and others to provide further information on individuals.  The following is recorded about Kokiri’s death: “Near the Falkland Islands. My late father, Tangonui (Tango) Falkland Kokiri Kingi was born on 29/11/1917, and named after his father’s brother. He was also given the name Falkland to commemorate the nearest land mass to where his uncle had been buried at sea.”]

Saturday, 19th day (21 April 1917)

The Maori Officer Kokiri died early this morning and was buried in the forenoon.  Everyone is depressed as he was the most popular man on the ship.  The funeral was very impressive being an unusual combination – a Military funeral, a burial at sea and a Maori Service.  The firing party was composed of Maoris and many of the poor chaps were blubbering openly; but no-one thought less of them for that.  He was a father to them all.  The ship was stopped during the service.

A cold southerly breeze  has brought back the albatrosses – magnificent birds, usually with black wings let into white bodies, and big yellow beaks.  Their stretch of wing is enormous.  The way I prattle of birds will lead the censor to believe me to be a naturalist; but they are one of the few objects of interest.