It’s a Dirty Job…
It’s a Dirty Job…
Private Tamati Te Patu MM enlisted with in 1915, he was a farmer from Karioi and ended up doing a job quite unique to the Great War. A pioneer. Part of the Pioneer battalion from New Zealand—an engineering unit—-tasked with the digging of trenches, Tamati was sent to Messines after his training in Suez.
When the village of Messines was captured, it needed to be linked and incorporated into the new front line, a job simple to do on a map but much harder in reality. Tamati's task was to literally redraw the lines of the battle, by digging the trenches connecting the new British front line to the newly captured territory. Whilst not a desirable task, it was not combat duty and Tamati would not have expected the following events which allow me to write the, 'MM,' after his name.
"On the 7th June Pte Te Patu was on a working party who were digging a communication trench to the German 2nd Line. The party came under very heavy shellfire and Te Patu was wounded in the neck, shoulder and arm. Though he was bleeding profusely and was told that he might go back to the dressing station, he declined to do so and insisted that he must finish his work so his comrades should not have to remain behind and complete it for him. He thus set a very fine example of pluck and devotion to duty, which was of the greatest value at such a trying time."
As the official citation goes, Tamati Te Patu's conduct was exemplary and a fascinating example of how bravery and heroics in battle don't have to be achieved with the killing of the enemy, but the commitment to duty required to save one's friends. The Military Medal is one of the highest honours British Servicemen or women can be awarded, it is just short of the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Victoria Cross (VC). The honour is such that the bearer of the medal may write the initials MM after their name.
Tamati went on to serve during the Second World War as a Sergeant. He was tasked with guarding Japanese POWs. After the Second World War, Tamati continued to work alongside the military in a motor and electrical engineering capacity. At the age of 65, he retired. Tamati was awarded a number of medals for long service and good conduct during his military career. On the 10th of January 1984, Tamati passed away nearby the camp at Trentham, where he first signed up to join the fight in two World Wars.