Created by potrace 1.14, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

TAHITIAN (Mā’ohi) WWII VOLUNTEERS

  • The story about this young man in uniform who hailed from a small island in the Pacific (Rurutu in the Austral Islands, 600 km southwest of Tahiti, in French Polynesia) begins when he along with 22 other young men decided to sign up as volunteers to join the Armed Forces in 1940, many of whom needed the authorisation of their parents being under age, to travel half way across the globe.

    Some of the other Tahitians who volunteered. Dad is on the left front row

    The young man was the father of Paul, Diane, Tracey, Tania and Jean Claude, he was one of only six who survived the war of the original Mā’ohi Tahitian aviation group.

    I’m Paul the eldest son, and that which I will be presenting on behalf of my siblings is based on Dads books, booklets, documents that I have found, but more importantly photos from my fathers personal photo album from the war which I have.

    I am happy to be corrected if someone believes they have contrasting information to what I have shared.

    The reasoning behind this website is so our children, grandchildren and future generations understand their ancestral heritage.

    FRENCH: MARA Natapu Né le 8 juillet 1922 à Tahiti (Polynésie Française) References *1

    TRANSLATION: MARA Natapu born the 8th of July 1922 Tahiti (French Polynesia) Actual Island of Birth RURUTU

    FRENCH: Engagé volontaire à Tahiti pour la durée de la guerre, le jeune homme est mis en route pour la France, via la Nouvelle Zélande, avec vingt et un camarades. References *1

    TRANSLATION: Joining as a volunteer from Tahiti for the duration of the war, this young man began his voyage to France, via New Zealand with twenty one fellow Tahitians

    31st March 1941: Left Tahiti onboard the S.S. Wairuna – Fiji – Auckland NZ

    FRENCH: « Nous avons quitté Tahiti le 31 mars 1941 sur le Wairuna, direction Fidji puis la Nouvelle-Zélande. Moi je m’étais engagé dans l’armée en 1939 et j’étais mécano dans l’aéronavale. Dans notre groupe, il y avait les volontaires pour l’armée de l’air dont Julien Allain, Eugène Aubry, Ernest Gournac, René Machecourt, Tavi Kainuku et les frères Tracqui, Charley Cowan, Marcel Hugon, Gilles Paquier etc… J’étais chez les marins, mais une fois en Nouvelle-Zélande, ils nous ont dit qu’ils avaient besoin d’aviateurs alors je me suis engagé dans l’armée de l’Air avec Natapu Mara, Rico Lagarde, Julien Allain… » …” References *1

    TRANSLATION: (Comment by Matthew Turner Chapman). We left Tahiti on the 31st of March 1941 onboard the Wairuna, headed for Fiji then New Zealand. I had already joined the army in 1939 as an aeronaval mechanic. In our group there were volunteers for the air force included, Julien Allain, Eugène Aubry, Ernest Gournac, René Machecourt, Tavi Kainuku et les frères Tracqui, Charley Cowan, Marcel Hugon, Gilles Paquier etc… I was in the marines, but once I arrived in New Zealand, they said they needed aviators (air force) so I joined the air force along with Natapu Mara, Rico Lagarde, Julien Allain…

    Date Unsure: They left Auckland onboard the S.S. Awatea – Sydney – Canada

    Halifax.. Manning Depot No1 CANADA. Dads holding the guitar as usual.

    FRENCH: Quelques temps plus tard, les douze volontaires, reconnus « aptes à l’aviation », sont mis en route vers le Canada français. Quelle n’est pas leur désillusion à l’arrivée lorsqu’ils s’aperçoivent qu’ils sont là, non pour voler, mais pour apprendre l’anglais. References *1

    TRANSLATION: Some time later those who were accepted as “Apte (competent) for Aviation”, we where sent on our way to French Canada. They were disillusioned upon arrival when they realised they weren’t there to fly, but to learn English.

    FRENCH: MARA écrit dans sont récit: « Nous nous trouvions comme des écoliers en classe avec des camarades Canadiens Français qui ne parlaient pas cette langue. Moins disciplinés qu’eux, nous avons exigé d’être envoyés en Angleterre pour rejoindre les Forces Françaises Libres; là, au moins nous pourrions combattre plus vite. Hélas, à notre arrivée en Angleterre on nous mit dans un camp de personnes réfugiées d’Europe, quelle punition! ». MARA ajoutera qu’à force de protester, on les enverra à Camberley, camp où étaient rassemblés les Français. Ils s’y engageront dans les Forces aériennes de la France libre. References *1

    TRANSLATION: Mara in his narrative said: :We found ourselves as school student in class with our French Canadians comrades who couldn’t speak the language (English) either. Being less disciplined than them, (French Canadians) we demanded that we be sent to England to join the Free French Forces; that way we could at least join the action sooner. Unfortunately upon arriving in England we were put into a European refugee camp, some punishment! Mara added we continued to protest, we were then sent to Camberley, camp where we joined the other French. They then joined the Free French Air Force.

    MY COMMENTS: During their voyage from Canada to England they actually made an unforeseen stop over in Iceland they then landed in Scotland before finally heading to England!

    Date Unsure: Canada – Iceland – Scotland –

    English friends in Iceland

    FRENCH: De la Nouvelle-Zélande ils prennent un paquebot anglais qui les conduit en Australie puis au Canada qu’ils traversent en train pour gagner Montréal. 15 jours d’entraînement militaire et enfin c’est le départ pour l’Angleterre. Mais trois jours avant d’arriver, leur convoi est attaqué. 12 bateaux sont coulés et leur navire est dérouté vers l’Islande. « C’était une misère pour nous les Tahitiens. Il faisait tellement froid qu’on ne pouvait pas sortir, on restait cachés dans les baraques. Nous sommes restés 15 jours à Reykjavik en attendant que les sous-marins allemands partent puis nous sommes arrivés en Ecosse mais le port était bombardé par les Allemands et à minuit on nous a réveillé pour prendre le train pour Londres ». References *1

    TRANSLATION: (As noted prior re New Zealand to Canada via Sydney) From New Zealand they sailed on an English ship which took them to Australia (As quoted before Sydney) then on to Canada where they traveled by train across to Montréal. 15 days of military training they then departed for England. With three days to go before arriving, their convoy was attacked. 12 boats were sunk and their ship was rerouted to Iceland (I always wondered why Dad had photos [attached] in his album of him and his Tahitian mates in Iceland) “ It was total misery for for our Tahitians. It was so cold we couldn’t go out, we stayed hidden in the barracks. We spent 15 days in Reykjavik waiting for the German submarines to leave, we arrived in Scotland to find the port had been bombarded by the Germans and at midnight we were woken to take the train to London.”

    FRENCH: Le volontaire Natapu MARA sera enregistré à Londres, dans les Forces aériennes françaises libres, pour compter du 28 juillet 1941, comme soldat de 2ème classe, candidat personnel naviguant, avec le matricule 30.766.

    TRANSLATION: 28th July 1941 – Volunteer Natapu MARA was registered in London, Free French Air Force, as a second class soldier, personal navigator candidate, number: 30.766.

    So finally they could move forward, beginning their training with five (5) months of English lessons in Camberley.

    All the photos above were scanned from Dads War photo album.

    References: *1 – http://www.francaislibres.net/liste/fiche.php?index=83265

    © Paul L T Mara 2020

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