Topic: Harry Dickson Rikihana (1894-1918)

Topic type:

Harry Dickson Rikihana [aka Rongoihaere Rikihana] worked as a labourer for Gamman's Mill at Omanawa Falls in Tauranga. While serving in √Čtaples in northern France during World War I he contracted tuberculosis (TB) and was deemed unfit for service. While on his way home to Matapihi, on 13 November 1918, he collapsed and died within sight of his home, two days after Armistice and at the beginning of the Influenza Pandemic. Story by Debbie McCauley.

Harry Dickson Rikihana was born in Tauranga on 6 March 1894. He was the son of Rikihana and Te Aorewa Tari from Matapihi.

Harry lived at Ngawaro and worked as a labourer at Gamman's Mill at Omanawa Falls in Tauranga.

He enlisted to fight in World War I from Tauranga on 6 March 1917, his birthday, and trained in Wellington (Service No. 19699). Harry sailed for England, arriving on 20 July before being stationed at the UK headquarters of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and receiving further training.  

Harry served in Etaples, and marched out to the Western Front with the Maori Pioneeer Battalion. He seems to have been in signals, running messages on foot and in between the trenches, and also on a motorcycle from the field to the command post. He was both wounded and gassed.

During the winter of 1917, many soldiers in Etaples had been stricken by influenza-like symptoms, what many believe was the start of the Influenza Pandemic (Spanish flu) which would eventually kill thousands. By 11 January 1918 Harry had developed a bad cough and was admitted to a field ambulance with 'bronchitis' and then dispatched to hospital. His records label his illness 'tuberculosis'. He was treated in hospitals in France, and then in England.

On 6 April 1918 Harry returned to New Zealand on board the hospital ship Marama. He spent many months recovering in the Cambridge Sanitorium. On 16 July 1918 the Medical Board at Rotorua deemed him permanently unfit for service.

24-year-old Harry wished to return home to Matapihi to see his parents. He arrived in Tauranga on 13 November 1918, but before he could reach his home at Matapihi, he collapsed and died suddenly at the Tauranga wharf. His cause of death was given as tuberculosis and influenza. 

Harry's last rank was Private. He was buried in the Matapihi Urupa and his British War Medal and Victory Medal sent to his father.

Harry Dickson Rikihana (1894-1918)


Archives New Zealand: Military Personnel File.

Auckland War Memorial Museum: Cenotaph Record.

Bay of Plenty Times (1918, November 15): Local and General.


A version of this article was archived in August 2016 at Perma CC

Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion

Harry Dickson Rikihana (1894-1918)

Note:Service Number: 19699
First Names:Harry Dickson
Last Name:Rikihana
Date of Birth:6 March 1894
Place of Birth:Tauranga
Country of birth:New Zealand
Date of death:13 November 1918
Place of death:Tauranga, New Zealand
Place of burial:Matapihi Urupa
Fathers name:Rikihana
Fathers date of birth:c1862
Fathers place of birth:Tauranga, New Zealand
Mothers name:Te Aorewa Tari
Mothers date of birth:c1867
Mothers place of birth:Tauranga, New Zealand
Military Service:World War I (1914-1918)