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Full Name
Hirini Heke
Rank Last Held
Lance Corporal
Forename(s)
Hirini
Surname
Heke
Also Known As
Heki
War
World War II, 1939-1945
Serial No.
39318
Gender
Male
Date of Birth
1912
Place of Birth
Awarua, North Auckland, New Zealand
First Known Rank
Lance Corporal
Occupation before Enlistment
Minister (of religion)
Next of Kin
Mr R.H. Heke (father), Awarua, Kaikohe, New Zealand
Marital Status
Single
Enlistment Address
Pipiwai, Whangarei, North Auckland, New Zealand
Military District
Whangarei
Body on Embarkation
Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF), 2nd Echelon
Embarkation Unit
28 (Maori) Battalion
Nominal Roll Number
WW2 2
Page on Nominal Roll
WW2 83
Campaigns
Western Desert
Last Unit Served
28 (Maori) Battalion
Place of Death
Western Desert
Date of Death
22 July 1942
Age at Death
29
Year of Death
1942
Cause of Death
Killed in action
Memorial Name
Alamein Memorial, El Alamein War Cemetery, Egypt
Memorial Reference
Column 10
Obituary
Herini's obituary says 'Mr R.H. Heke, of Awarua has received word that his son Lance Corporal Hirini Heke was killed in action on July 23. Lance-Corporal Heke, who is single, was born in Awarua in 1912, and before going overseas worked for Mr Alison of Pakotai. He sailed with the 2nd Echelon. He was a keen member of the Pakotai Rangers' football team.'
Biographical Notes
  • Hirini Heke was the son of Rehopoama and Heti Heke of Kaikohe. One of a large family he appears to have been a minister at Pipiwai near Whangarei. A memorial in his honour exists there.
  • Before going overseas he worked for Mr Alison of Pakotai, and was a keen member of the Pakotai Rangers' football team.
  • Corporal Heke was killed in the attack on El Mreir on 21/22 July 1942.
Description of Image
Portrait, Northland roll of honour and servicemen of WW II (2002)
Additional Information
  • Name listed in the Auckland Museum. Roll of Honour, Auckland Province, 1939 - 1945 as Hirini Heki
  • During 1941 and 1942 North Africa was the scene of much military activity as the war raged in Egypt, Syria and Libya. In the Western Desert the 7th Armoured Division was being re-equipped and preparations were being made for a fresh drive westwards to recapture Cyrenaica and relieve Tobruk. As a result of the fighting during May, the Germans established themselves at the Halfaya Pass, which they proceeded to prepare for defence.
  • Although the two armoured brigades of the 7th Armoured Division were both lacking one regiment, and although they were equipped with different types of tanks whose actions could not easily be co-ordinated, an offensive was launched on 15 June 1941. One column advanced along the coast towards Sollum, while a second, climbing the escarpment to the south, moved along it, occupied Capuzzo and was intended to take Halfaya with the aid of the coastal force. A third column still farther south was to protect the left flank and threaten the rear and supply columns of the Axis armies. On 15 and 16 June progress was fairly satisfactory, although neither Sollum nor Halfaya was taken; but on 17 a critical situation developed, when strong enemy columns advanced southwards from Bardia and eastwards from south-west of Capuzzo, from Sidi Omar.
  • Operations came to a standstill for some months following this brief sally, recommencing in November. The early strages of the battle were fought out between 30th Corps and the German and Italian armoured forces in the vicinity of Sidi Rezegh, south-east of Tobruk, on the desert track known as the Trigh Capuzzo.
  • The New Zealand Division and the Tobruk garrison had been making headway in the vicinity of Sidi Rezegh. On the night of 25/26 November the New Zealand Division captured that much-disputed point, and the following night saw the first contact between the Tobruk garrison and the Eighth Army. This had caused the Germans to call back their armour from its thrust into Egypt, and by the afternoon of the 28th it was obvious that the positions held by the New Zealand Division would be strongly assaulted. The expected attack came the following day, and as a result the Sidi Rezegh ridge fell once more into the hands of the Germans, the 6 New Zealand Brigade being overwhelmed by superior numbers on 30 November. The New Zealand Division had by now suffered very heavy casualties and was withdrawn to the Egyptian frontier which it reached on 2 December.
  • February, March and April of 1942 were taken up with preparations for the defence of Tobruk, with the consolidation of the Gazala line as a secure base from which it might be launched. The offensive began on 26 May. The Eighth Army had not held a continuous front over the forty miles from Gazala to Bir Hakeim, but rather a series of strong points, known as 'boxes', protected by a deep minefield. Fierce fighting took place in June.
  • During the month of July, both sides were occupied in bringing up reinforcements and in strengthening their positions. The Eighth Army Commander, realising that Rommel's supply lines must be extended to their limit and that in spite of their successes, the Germans had suffered considerable casualties and were weary, was determined not to yield another inch, but to maintain pressure and to attack wherever opportunity offered - a policy which resulted in some fierce fighting. By the end of July the Eighth Army had not only prevented further enemy advance but had improved their own position, having gained a notable advantage by taking the mounds at Tell el Eisa, on the railway just west of El Alamein, besides valuable ground on the Ruweisat Ridge in the centre of the front. After the end of July no fighting of importance took place on the Alamein front.
  • Next of kin details compiled from information in the Casualty lists published in the newspapers.
Further References
Sources Used
  • Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force Nominal Roll No. 2 (Embarkations to 30th June, 1940)
  • CommonwealthWar Graves Commission URL http://www.cwgc.org
  • Northland roll of honour and servicemen of WW II [electronic resource]. (2002). Whangarei, Returned Services Association.

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