A wartime love story: The girl on the swing

By D'Angelo Martin

A love story from one kuia who is a widow of war, she explains her love and her grief for the soldier who first saw her playing on a swing as a girl.  She was only ten years old at the time, long before Karauria Mitchell enlisted and went to war.

Private Mitchell suffered a major head injury and was sent home earlier than expected.

Karanga Kingi Mitchell, his widow, says, "He was sent to Cairo Hospital because one side of his head was badly wounded.  He stayed at the hospital, then was sent home".

After settling back to life in New Zealand, Mitchell saw the girl he once spotted on her swing so many years before.

He then asked his mate, "Who is that girl?  Who's the new girl in town?  At first, he couldn't figure it out but then he remembered the face of that little girl on the swing. 

"We got married, had nine kids and then lived up the river at Waiapū, milking cows," Karanga recalls.

Karanga loved him very much and still till this day remembers vividly the bond and the relationship that they shared with each other. 

"My love for him was unbearable, I loved him very much," she says. 

Her memories are entrenched with the soldiers who went off to war, leaving their families behind. 

"They went off to war, left their loved ones, their families and their people."

A lot of soldiers who were able to make it back home after the war were traumatised and faced depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Many turned to drugs and alcohol to soothe the pain. 

Karanga says that Karauria was always lost in his thoughts, and in that mood she was never to question or bother him.

"He was starting to be abusive towards me, that's when we started to separate," she says. 

Despite the challenges within their relationship, she loved him very much and remembers vividly the bond they shared.

Karauria Mitchell, of C Company and a descendant of Ngāpuhi, passed away on 1 July 1994.