The history of Māori in the Hokianga would not be complete without a mention of the 28th Māori Battalion, in particular A Company (Ngā Kiri Kapia).
The Māori Battalion's four rifle companies were organised along tribal lines, partly following the boundaries of the four Māori parliamentary electorates. Each company had its own nickname, reflecting the history and character of its main recruiting area:
A Company, drawn from Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whātua and other northern iwi, was known as the Gum Diggers (Ngā Kiri Kapia) due to the long history of kauri gum digging in the north.
Harding Leaf's name is synonymous with the 'fighting Ngapuhi'. He enlisted for W.W.I in 1914 and served in Gallipoli and on the Western Front. He became a legend for his inspired leadership at Chunuk Bair with his rallying battle cry "Fight like the Ururoa, fight to the death".
Harding gave 4 years 51 days in overseas service in W.W.I. In W.W.II Harding gave his life. He was killed in action in Crete. He has no grave, no official resting place but his memory lives on in the heart of his people.
Lieutenant Colonel H.G. Dyer in his book Ma te Reinga (The way of the Maori Soldier) describes Harding:
HARDING was a powerful man and a happy one. When the war broke out his life had already been packed with adventure and he had even then become a legend among his people. The Ngapuhi of the North were the wild men of the Battalion, and Harding was of them. He lived and loved at Hokianga in the old stamping ground of Hongi Hika and of Judge Manning, and in his own way he followed the path they had trod.
Rare Book: The Sons of Ramaroa by Joan M Leaf
The stories of New Zealand soldiers from the South Hokianga area.