11 October 2017
Auckland Navy Officer Has Special Connection to Passchendaele
Warrant Officer Te Kani Te Wiata is leading the Māori Cultural Group performing at New Zealand commemorations for the
Battle of Passchendaele centenary in Belgium.
Royal New Zealand Navy Warrant Officer Te Kani Te Wiata has a special connection to the First World War Battle of
Warrant Officer Te Wiata is leading the New Zealand Defence Force Māori Cultural Group, who will perform at New Zealand
commemorations in Belgium to mark the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele.
His great-grandfather, Rifleman William Robert Friar, was one of the casualties of New Zealand’s darkest day, 12
Warrant Officer Te Kani Te Wiata’s relative Autini Kaipara is buried at Prowse Point Cemetery, in Belgium.
The Battle of Passchendaele remains New Zealand’s worst catastrophe in military history, with 843 men recorded as dying
on that day. Another 114 lost their lives in the next three months from the wounds they sustained on 12 October. William
Friar was one of those. He died on Monday, 5 November, 1917, and lies buried in France in the Boulogne Eastern Cemetery.
“He was probably transported to three different triage stations before he was taken to hospital in France,” Warrant
Officer Te Wiata said. “Because of the conditions, it took the stretcher bearers a while to get there. He was moved to a
hospital in Boulogne and it was at that hospital that he died of complications from his wounds.’’
Warrant Officer Te Wiata, who is from Ngaruawahia and now lives in Kaukapakapa, north of Auckland, has other connections
to Passchendaele. He discovered last year that his great-grandfather and his wife Angela’s grandfather were together on
That information came from Freddy Declerck, a former Belgian naval officer who has helped many New Zealanders learn
about relatives buried in Flanders fields.
“Both my great-grandfather and my wife’s grandfather were with the 3rd New Zealand (Rifle) Brigade. Freddy explained
that there would only have been about 200 men in the brigade, so they most likely knew each other,” Warrant Officer Te
Both men were wounded on 12 October during the New Zealand Division’s attack on Bellevue Spur.
“My wife’s grandfather made it back. He brought home a sign from Bellevue Spur.’’
The Field Service record for Rifleman William Robert Friar notes the cause of death as “Died from wounds received in
Last year, Angela’s family was honoured to receive the Queen Elisabeth Medal from Belgium, in recognition of the
compassion shown by Mary Ann Wick, who grew and sold produce at her home in Takapuna, Auckland, and sent the proceeds to
Belgium to help wounded soldiers.
There are other family connections to the First World War. A cousin’s great-grandfather was Autini Kaipara, a second
lieutenant in the NZ Pioneer Battalion, who was killed in action on the Western Front on 4 August, 1917, aged 30. Second
Lieutenant Kaipara was one of New Zealand’s leading rugby second five-eighths. He is buried at Prowse Point Military
Cemetery in Belgium.
The events of that day will be firmly in his mind as he performs with the Māori Cultural Group.
“I’ll be thinking about what they experienced doing their duty that day and will remember the sacrifices of all those
The New Zealand National Commemorative Service for the Battle of Passchendaele centenary is at Tyne Cot Cemetery at 11am
on 12 October. On the same day, the Sunset Ceremony will be held at Buttes New British Cemetery at 7.15pm.