Last Māori Battalion “Gum Digger” laid to rest

By Dean Nathan

The NZ Defence Force official records confirm that Charlie Petera was the last remaining soldier of A Company of the 28th Māori Battalion.  Today, Charlie Petera was laid to rest at Perepetua cemetery in the Far North.

It's a farewell befitting a soldier said to be the last of the gum-diggers of A Company of the 28th Māori Battalion.

“All the tribes are grieving at this time the passing of this elder,” says Graeme Neho from Ngāti Kuri.

A great orator and communicator, his comrades were on hand to farewell him.

“I will never forget you, my friend. I only know of two still living, namely Noel Raihania and Rutene Irwin, who I've only just met again for the first time since before the war,” says fellow comrade Herewini Karaka.

The bereaved family has been further hit by the sad news of the passing overnight of one of Charlie's sons Waata from cancer. However, for today, the people focused on giving his father a proper send-off.

Neho says, “For all the mourners who have come to Waiora Marae to pay their respects and farewell him, I can say in my heart that his time has truly passed.”

A staunch warrior of his time, today was his last in the physical world.