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: http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/war-memorial/online-cenotaph/record/C8429.  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.”]

2 thoughts on “Tango Kokiri, Obiit. April 21 1917”

  1. I was very moved by this, John. I admire so much about the Maori way of life, among other things their hospitality and attitude to death. We can learn much from the best of them, and forgive the unfortunate ones suffering from having a foreign culture forced on them.



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