TAMATI Semmens, seen here with the Tane Komene Memorial Trophy, and with his mother Gail Keepa, is one of the 12 Te Kura Mana Maori o Whangaparaoa students departing for Dubai and Istanbul on Sunday evening. Photo Sven Carlsson OS0190-16

A WHANGAPARAOA contingent is boarding a plane this weekend, embarking on a search for lost time.

Te Kura Mana Maori o Whangaparaoa principal Tuihana Pook said two staff, including herself, and 12 students from the school would board the plane heading for Dubai on Sunday evening.

“Sir Wira Gardiner is also with us as our historian and guide, plus 11 other adults who have close connections to soldiers who lie in one of those memorial cemeteries in Egypt, Italy and Turkey.”

Coast community board member Gail Keepa said her son, Tamati Semmens, was one of the students going on the trip.

“Te Uaaterangi Keepa was shot by a sniper and he’s buried in Florence,” she said.

“Tamati will be taking his medals with him as he goes to visit his grave. It’s his first visit over there.”

The contingent will visit several exotic and historically-charged places, including Istanbul, Gallipoli, Troy, Rome, Cassino, Cairo, El Alamein and the Suez Canal.

The Great Pyramids of Giza and The Sphinx are included among the long list of historic site to be visited.

Meanwhile, a research initiative called The Forgotten Heroes has been proposed by Mrs Pook and leading elders of the Whangapararoa community.

Based on a community wish to have its grandchildren better understand the sacrifices made by their ancestors during World War II, the research and documentation will also include the stories of those who were captured by the enemy and spent time in prisoner-of-war camps.

“After the war those men who were captured often saw themselves as second-class soldiers,” Mrs Pook said.

“Their mates who went on to fight often treated prisoners of war with implicit disdain and while not openly hostile by their behaviour, suggested that those captured had an easy war.”

Mrs Pook said over the past three years, senior students of the kura had visited the battlefields in Greece, Crete and Italy to follow in the footsteps of their tipuna.

“Additionally, they have, as one of their objectives, been required to learn about the ancient histories of these regions,” she said.

“In each location, the students have visited the Commonwealth cemeteries where their tipuna lie buried, conducting appropriate karakia.”

Mrs Pook said prior to each hikoi, students had to research the histories of members of their families who came home after the war and present their research as part of their school studies.

“In addition, they are required to learn about any of their tipuna who died overseas and lie in one of the cemeteries to be visited,” she said.

“During their research students have often found it difficult to find comprehensive documentation and literature that relates to those who were POWs or died in battle.”

sven.carlsson@thebeacon.co.nz