In search of a soldier

By Wikitōria Day

The owner of a square cigar box embellished with Māori carving is on the search for the family of its original owner he believes was in the 28th Maori Battalion.

John Webster of Takapuna purchased the box about 20 years ago at an antique shop in Mt Eden for $10, and was unable to get any information from the sellers on the history of the box. However, after this year’s 100 year commemorations of WW1, John has been on a mission to connect the taonga with its whānau.

He says “I’ve had this box with me for such a long time, but it was only recently that I felt some urge to find out more about its owner, almost like he’s been telling me to get him back home”.

After a closer examination he found a handwritten inscription stating '4198 - Matehaere OC D Coy 28th Maori Battallion'. He believes this refers to the owner, whom after more research found to be James Matehaere, Second Lieutenant of Tirau.

Since being in touch with war historian Dr Monty Soutar, he says information has been coming to the fore.

“He’s now even more determined to continue the search, “I’ve never used it for anything but I realise as I get older I have to let these things disappear, this explains why I’m doing this.” John says.

Webster told Te Kaea this morning that John Matehaere was of Ngāti Raukawa descent and died at age 61 in Thames.