When Matirini Ngari’s great-grandfather Tuaivi Mose went off to war, leaving behind New Zealand for the daunting challenges of Gallipoli, he kept a diary of all his encounters. Years later these records were turned into a special family book that has been passed down through the generations to Matirini and her family.
Today, despite the fact they never met, with Tuaivi passing long before she was born, Matirini feels like she knows her great-grandfather thanks to this unique insight into his thoughts and memories, and is grateful both for the book he wrote and for his personal sacrifice of going off to war. “Although she was only young when he died, my mother remembers Tuaivi – her grandfather – and his story has always been shared throughout our family,” she says. “Even though he is now many generations back we still talk about him and honour him.”
Originally from the Cook Islands, Tuaivi came to Wellington and joined the Army before deploying to Gallipoli. “The Pacific culture is rich with oral history, with stories usually being passed down by word of mouth, so having this written record from him is quite unique and special,” says Matirini. “He was really good with words, and his diaries have brought his story to life for me and showed me first hand all that he went through when he went off to war.”
For many members of Matirini’s family, especially Tuaivi’s children, the diaries are an emotional read, particularly the first-hand insights into the harrowing realities of life at war. “His diaries contain a lot of detail about what it was like in the trenches and the men who he fought alongside and considered his family too,” she says. “For me, being several generations removed, my reaction was slightly different when I read his story. It really gave me a moment of empowerment to read about this brave young man who went away, left his family and fought for our country. I read his words, and I just think ‘wow, what a great thing to have done.’
Although Tuaivi was one of the lucky ones who came home from war, there is no doubt that he and his family made many sacrifices during his time in the military. “His service with the Army took him away from his home and his children, and that’s precious time he could never get back,” says Matirini. “He was away for a long time when he was at war, and then sadly died quite young too. Family miss out on a lot when their relatives go off to war, and that was definitely the case with my family.”
Tuaivi’s impact upon the wider family has been far-reaching, with Matirini crediting his character for influencing both her and her family for the better. “My great grandfather was very kind and a gentleman, and that attitude and demeanour has been passed down throughout our family,” she says. “He accomplished so much, both as a soldier, and being able to write down his memories, even when some of them were difficult ones. I’m so grateful that we have his words and thoughts and that we can share them down through the generations so that they are never lost.” Now with her career working in the libraries, Matirini is working towards publishing Tuaivi’s words in a book for everyone to read and learn from.
Today the family still honour Tuaivi, with Matirini’s aunt holding his medals and tending his grave in Porirua. And of course, this ANZAC day, as always, they will remember him. “I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for him,” says Matirini. “He has left a special legacy behind for his family, and I am proud to call myself his great-granddaughter.”
Tuaivi Mose’s grave is situated in the old Porirua cemetery. Recently a volunteer initiative by the New Zealand Remembrance Army and the RSA has completely restored this cemetery. Local historian and founder of Porirua War Stories Allan Dodson has researched many of the people behind the plaques and has brought their stories back to life. The life and service of Tuaivi Mose is one such story.
The RSA coordinate many of the remembrance activities and services in towns and cities all over New Zealand including Armistice and ANZAC Day ceremonies. Within each district RSAs have support people who visit and help current and ex-service personnel and their families get the help they need. Every day the RSA are involved with providing targeted and personal 1:1 support for individuals and families in need. Your donation on Poppy Day helps them to achieve this.
This year on the 12th April you will see Poppy collectors in the street. Please give generously and wear your Poppy with pride.