David Ellison holds a copy of the diary that his father
brought home from war, and which Mr Ellison has given to
the descendants of its soldier author. Photo by Linda
The last chapter of a story which started in a prisoner
of war camp during World War 2 ended yesterday when Karitane
man David Ellison handed a diary filled with soldiers' stories
of illness and death to its original author's family.
The diary was started by Corporal Renata ‘‘Rusty'' Wanoa, a
member of the 28th Maori Battalion,
while he was in a German POW camp, and detailed his health
As he got sicker and sicker, he asked other soldiers to write
for him. One of them was Mr Ellison's father Thomas, also a
member of the 28th Maori Battalion, who continued writing in
the diary after Cpl Wanoa died, and who brought it home to
New Zealand when he was released.
Mr Ellison (72) inherited the diary from his parents and
believed that his late father wanted ‘‘someone, some day to
deliver the diary safely back to his [Cpl Wanoa's] whanau''.
‘‘The time had come for the final act to finish the story. To
me, it was the most important thing my father left me to
When he first read the diary he could not put it down, drawn
by the strength of character shown by Cpl Wanoa.
‘‘You could tell he knew he wasn't coming home. It was a very
With the help of Maori Television, Cpl Wanoa's descendants
were found and yesterday during its Anzac Day coverage, the
broadcaster brought the two families together so the diary
could be handed over.
‘‘What started off as a traumatic experience for both our
families . . . shows how strong our people are under
adversity,'' Mr Ellison said.
Cpl Wanoa's namesake Renata Te Kani, said on television that
receiving the diary was a ‘‘sad and happy'' experience.
His father, Lob Te Kani, said the family had had no idea of
the existence of the diary until that minute, so it was quite
an emotional event.
‘‘I want to thank you . . . from the bottom of my heart for
presenting this diary back to our family,'' he said during