Topic: George Nicholas (1895-1988) (WWI 34413)
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George was named after his mother's brother George Tahere Faulkner also known as Puhi Faulkner. George had a prodigious memory and could easily remember people who had died before the First World War like his Uncle August in 1910 and Tahere in 1912. George [Te Kokonga] was born January 29th 1895 and died August 9th 1988. He still had all his faculties and was remarkably mobile. He would fall asleep in his chair in his RSA flat and as soon as you turned the door knob you would wake him up. He could still read for short periods without glasses.
George was one of the last survivors of the Maori Pioneer Battalion of the First World War. He became a victim of the 1918 influenza epidemic while in Germany as a member of the occupation forces after Armistice. He finally left France on a stretcher. He first married Waitutu and after her death married Rose Dehar of Ngāti Tamahapai. [Wairoa Marae.]. He enjoy long walks and could walk downtown or to the Council at Barkes Corner or to Ben's place. He would still walk up to the Tawhitinui Marae hill to the cemetery. George often would surprise everyone by pulling out 50 year old papers from his pocket.
He was often interviewed about the war. Every second year it seemed he would have his photo in the paper on Anzac day.
He attended every Anzac dawn parade until his last couple of years. I remember one story as he was an MP (Military Police) during the war, he was asked to arrest Wati Dunn. He called out in Maori to him "E oma e hoa e oma" translated means run friend run. George pretended to put up a good effort chasing him but no surprise Wati got away.
George should have lived to a hundred. He looked like he was going to. His doctor also said he would. I thought he would be the last Maori soldier alive. I remember at one time the Maori survivors of the 1st world war were down to about 40 survivors when George and his younger Harvey were still alive.
George died in hospital at the age of 93 after a bad fall after walking back to his flat from the shop. It had started to rain so he took a short cut through the hospital where he fell. His tangi was held at Tawhitinui Marae and he is buried at Pyes Pa.
An interview with George Nicholas (1895-1988) (WWI 34413) & Bob Robertson from He Rerenga Korero 25 April 1985. Produced and presented by Haare Williams. Radio New Zealand collection, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision ID43459.
Available for streaming here by permission of Nga Taonga Sound and vision. The catalogue record for the programme is on the Nga Taonga Sound & Vision archives here (please click).
Footage of George Nicholas talking later in life (Te Reo and English), made available by his descendants.
George recalls the armistace. Put together by members of George's Whanau.
Montage of images and speaking put together by members of George's Whanau
This article was archived at Perma CC on August 11, 2016 (https://perma.cc/CZ45-HUD3).