Prayer book back with family

Dead soldier’s possession ends ‘long journey’.

Dead soldier’s possession ends ‘long journey’.

REUNITED WITH FAMILY: Leanne and Peter with the prayer book that has come home after three-quarters of a century. It belonged to Peter’s grand-uncle, who died a prisoner in Germany in 1944 and found its family after publicity given to the search for a rightful owner. Picture by Paul Rickard

The return of a prisoner of war’s book of prayer to his family is described by them as “a kind of a miracle” .

Gisborne couple Leanne Hovell Te Kani and Peter Te Kani say it has been an emotional time since they read about the book of prayer in The Gisborne Herald in September.

The story was about a family of a prisoner of war who was a member of 28 Maori Battalion, who wanted to reunite the book of prayer with its rightful owners.

Wairoa woman Sue Thompson, the daughter of Ben Thompson, a prisoner of war and member of 28 Maori Battalion, contacted The Herald in a last-ditch effort to reunite the book with the owner’s family.

The book belonged to a member of 28 Maori Battalion, a prisoner who died in a concentration camp.

The book is inscribed with the name Cpl RM Wanoa and a regiment number 39178.

A search of the regiment number on the Maori Battalion website shows Renata Matengaroa Wanoa, who listed Potaka, Hicks Bay as his address on enlistment.

Renata died on April 23, 1944, in Germany.

Sue Thompson wanted the book to go back to the rightful owners, the family of the soldier.

“We have had a caretaking role for this book. This is a last-ditch effort to try to get it back to where it belongs.”

Leanne and Peter called to tell The Herald they could be the family related to Renata Wanoa.

“When I eventually realised it was us, it was actually a little bit emotional. There were just the two of them, his nan and her brother. She has been gone for 20 years, so to have this come up was really, really emotional,” Leanne says.

Leanne took a little time coming forward because they knew Renata by his middle name Matengaroa. After they searched the regiment number, they realised it was him and made contact with The Herald.

“My husband was raised by his grandmother Wamoana Kararaina Te Kani, nee Wanoa, who lived at Potaka in the homestead her dad Taha Wanoa built.

Her brother was Renata Wanoa. He died in the war and is buried overseas. My husband’s father, who is Wamoana’s adopted son, was given her brother’s name Renata.

“We are pretty sure this is her brother’s prayer book.”

After making contact with Peter’s father Renata, who lives in Australia, they were pretty confident this was Renata Wanoa’s book. Wamoana had only one brother and they were the only Wanoa family living at Potaka at the time.

This week, Sue Thompson delivered the book of prayer to Leanne and Peter.

Leanne and Sue hugged and cried for a long time.

Leanne said it was really emotional for Sue, because of the book’s journey.

“It was kind of a miracle having Sue come forward with it. We have had pieces of his belongings return over the years.

“His diary was returned about 10 years ago,” Leanne says.

With this book returned, Leanne said it meant a lot to the family.

“We are more inclined to be telling our stories, so if anything like this happened to us, we have learned for the future that you have to leave things behind just in case.”

“I have decided to write about its journey so people know the story. We don’t want them ever to be forgotten.”

The return of a prisoner of war’s book of prayer to his family is described by them as “a kind of a miracle” .

Gisborne couple Leanne Hovell Te Kani and Peter Te Kani say it has been an emotional time since they read about the book of prayer in The Gisborne Herald in September.

The story was about a family of a prisoner of war who was a member of 28 Maori Battalion, who wanted to reunite the book of prayer with its rightful owners.

Wairoa woman Sue Thompson, the daughter of Ben Thompson, a prisoner of war and member of 28 Maori Battalion, contacted The Herald in a last-ditch effort to reunite the book with the owner’s family.

The book belonged to a member of 28 Maori Battalion, a prisoner who died in a concentration camp.

The book is inscribed with the name Cpl RM Wanoa and a regiment number 39178.

A search of the regiment number on the Maori Battalion website shows Renata Matengaroa Wanoa, who listed Potaka, Hicks Bay as his address on enlistment.

Renata died on April 23, 1944, in Germany.

Sue Thompson wanted the book to go back to the rightful owners, the family of the soldier.

“We have had a caretaking role for this book. This is a last-ditch effort to try to get it back to where it belongs.”

Leanne and Peter called to tell The Herald they could be the family related to Renata Wanoa.

“When I eventually realised it was us, it was actually a little bit emotional. There were just the two of them, his nan and her brother. She has been gone for 20 years, so to have this come up was really, really emotional,” Leanne says.

Leanne took a little time coming forward because they knew Renata by his middle name Matengaroa. After they searched the regiment number, they realised it was him and made contact with The Herald.

“My husband was raised by his grandmother Wamoana Kararaina Te Kani, nee Wanoa, who lived at Potaka in the homestead her dad Taha Wanoa built.

Her brother was Renata Wanoa. He died in the war and is buried overseas. My husband’s father, who is Wamoana’s adopted son, was given her brother’s name Renata.

“We are pretty sure this is her brother’s prayer book.”

After making contact with Peter’s father Renata, who lives in Australia, they were pretty confident this was Renata Wanoa’s book. Wamoana had only one brother and they were the only Wanoa family living at Potaka at the time.

This week, Sue Thompson delivered the book of prayer to Leanne and Peter.

Leanne and Sue hugged and cried for a long time.

Leanne said it was really emotional for Sue, because of the book’s journey.

“It was kind of a miracle having Sue come forward with it. We have had pieces of his belongings return over the years.

“His diary was returned about 10 years ago,” Leanne says.

With this book returned, Leanne said it meant a lot to the family.

“We are more inclined to be telling our stories, so if anything like this happened to us, we have learned for the future that you have to leave things behind just in case.”

“I have decided to write about its journey so people know the story. We don’t want them ever to be forgotten.”

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David Light, Melbourne - 27 days ago
What a Beautiful story with a Beautiful Ending.

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