C Company's Epineha 'Pine' Ratapu reflects on his full life

By Tema Hemi

Epineha Ratapu, better known to family and friends as 'Pine', is the last surviving member of C Company. He was born 25 January 1922 in Tokomaru Bay on the East Coast and was 14 years old when he went to war. 

It is a proud legacy that extends five living generations of the Ratapu family.

His eldest grandchild, Eva Francis says, "He means everything to our family.  I'm his eldest granddaughter and he brought me up from a baby."

His grandson Heath Riddell says, "He's the leader, kaumātua, of our whānau and we love him very much."

Another granddaughter Kirsten Grey says, "Just having him around, being able to have those stories, actually be there and know what he went through as well.  It's pretty amazing."

Ratapu is one of nine children and, after his mother Meretini passed away, his father Pani had to provide for the whole whānau.  The opportunity to travel and leave Tokomaru was too good to pass up.

Vigorous training started in the desert camp of Maadi and then not long after he was fighting his way up the Italian Peninsula and then eventually onward to Casino.

After the war he also joined J Force and went to Japan. 

Ratapu still remembers those who influenced him most while in the army.

"Awatere was our colonel, he was about the best we ever had.  Although we had a few colonels he was the best of the lot, he never put us on charge.  If you were in trouble he'd take you 'around the back'," Ratapu says.

Ratapu is philosophical about the long and interesting life he has lived.

"Every now and again I'll have a little sleep and close my eyes to myself, have a little tangi, wish I would hurry up and go there, but I can't because [God] said 'your jobs not finished yet'."

Ratapu has 8 children, 20 grandchildren, 51 great grandchildren and 8 great-great grandchildren.

He says he keeps fighting for all of them.