Roi Te Punga, D-Coy. 28th (Maori) Battalion | 2NZEF (WWII)
(Wellington) - Desert
Image: Maori Battalion route marching during training at Maadi, Egypt, during World War II. Taken by an official photographer.
Roi (Roy) Te Punga (Te Atiawa descent) was born in a house at White’s Line in Waiwhetu, Wellington, the third of six children, in 1919; and was raised in Halcombe, a railway town near Feilding in the Manawatu. His father, Hamuera Te Punga, was a Lutheran minister at the St John’s Lutheran Church in Kimber St, Halcombe. He had met his wife, a Chicago school teacher while studying at a Lutheran institution in Illinois in the early 1900s.
Roy attended Feilding Agricultural High School, and along with his older brother Hamuera Paul, a lawyer, graduated with degrees from Victoria University before signing up for service overseas with the 28th Maori Battalion. Hamuera Paul was a major in the Maori Battalion when he was killed in action, aged 28, in Italy in 1944. Roy served as a captain in the Battalion before he was wounded at Tokrouna, Tunisia, in April 1943.
After the war, Roy continued his post-graduate university studies which he completed with an MA and a Diploma in Social Work. In the early 1950s, he came to the attention of the then Secretary for Justice, Sam Barnett, and was employed as a probation officer – a profession in which he would make his mark, where the emphasis of Roi’s policy decisions was on keeping people in the community, rather than seeing them behind bars. He was appointed the nation’s Chief Probation officer in the late 1960s. He was the consummate public servant, concerned about the welfare of others, throughout his life.