Topic: George Puhi Nicholas (1895-1988)
During World War I George Nicholas was a Corporal in New Zealand Maori Pioneer Battalion.
George Puhi Nicholas was born in Paeroa on 29 January 1895 to William Wiri and Marion Te Raha Matekino Nicholas (nee Faulkner).
He worked for Gamman's Mill at Omanawa Falls in Tauranga.
George enrolled for World War I from Omokoroa via Waihi. He embarked from Wellington on 2 January 1917 for London, England, arriving on 27 March 1917 as part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF), 20th Reinforcements, E Company. From his records it looked like he may have served as part of the military police during the voyage and joined the Maori Pioneer Battalion on 8 May 1917.
He was appoined Lance Corporal on 22 September 1918 and to corporal on 9 November 1918.
On 28 February 1919 he returned to New Zealand aboard the Westmoreland. During the voyage he was admitted to the ships hospital on 25 March. George was discharged on 3 June 1919, his intended address given as Omokoroa.
On 31 March 1923 he married Rosaline Te Kauarangi Dihars in Tauranga.
The following was recorded in Tauranga on 24 April 1985 by Haare Williams and is available via the The New Zealand Archive of Film, Television and Sound:
"I left New Zealand when I was about 21. I tried to get away earlier but I was stopped. My workmates He tried to volunteer earlier with his workmates Joe Sharplin, Joe Hiscock and Brian Hendridge, but his uncle and father stopped him from joining up. He went to work for Gamman, but the younger brother of the Sharplins told him to come down to Tauranga and sign up with him. He finally managed to enlist at the age of twenty-one in Tauranga, without his family knowing."
"You couldn't say much about the dead, there were so many of them lying around, just said "Poor devils" and move on."
"You had to look after yourself when it came to food. We had some hard cases who knew how to look after the Māori boys. There were French potatoes and pigs not far away, but taking what you could find wasn't theft. He thinks Pākehā suffered from lice more than Māori."
"We also went into Ypres and Passchendaele. Our main job was digging trenches and wiring at nights and pulling out guns and horses stuck in the mud."
George Nicholas was two years and ninety-five days on the front. He didn't think there would be another war. He recalls the only time they laughed over there was when they had 'narrow squeaks' when shells missed them. He recalls burying the dead with just a blanket or coat over them.
"After Paschendaele we chased them all the way up to Le Quesnoy where they didn't surrender until some of our boys got through the gates. A lot of men got flu on the way home. When the Armistice was announced we started jumping around and dancing with civilians. They got as far as Verviers but so many got flu that they were sent home. He came home in a stretcher with Frank Barclay, via Dunkirk."
George Nicholas: He hasn't missed an Anzac Day yet
George died in Tauranga on 9 August 1988 (reg. 1988/47979). He was buried in Pyes Pa Cemetery.