Whanau given POW journal

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 Robertson.
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 Robertson.
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 struggles.

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 do.''

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 poignant story.''

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 the broadcast.

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