Purewa Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 500 men and women who fought in wars spanning the sweep of Auckland’s history.
These include the New Zealand Wars 1843-1872, the South African War (formerly known as the Boer War) 1899-1902, WWI 1914-1918, WWII 1939-1945, the Korean War 1950-1953 and the Vietnam War 1955-1975. (And even the American Civil War 1861-1865, where freedom-loving New Zealanders volunteered for service!)
Other brave men and women saw action in Malaysia, East Timor and Afghanistan.
One of the little-known heroes of WWII was Walter Batty, who left New Zealand as a 35-year-old to fight in the New Zealand Artillery 6 Field Regiment. It was a pivotal time in the battle against Rommel’s Panzers as Batty’s regiment was tasked to defend Tobruk during Operation Crusader.
His selfless actions in that campaign earned him a Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for his single-handed combat against German tanks.
First Tongan All Black
Walter is also remembered for his physical skill on the rugby field. He had the honour and distinction of being the first Tongan All Black, representing Auckland from 1924-1932 when he played in 64 games.
In 1928 he played against New South Wales at Wellington, in 1930 against North Otago and Great Britain at Dunedin, Auckland and Wellington and in 1931, against Australia.
When the British team toured in 1930, Batty played in three of the four tests but was unavailable for the final match.