Anania Amohau

Te Arawa, Ngāti Whakaue, Tūhourangi

Anania (Nan) Amohau was born in Whakarewarewa and educated at Whakarewarewa Primary School and Te Aute College. He worked as a photographer in Rotorua and was a member of the Māori concert party at Whakarewarewa. He married June Mellar Monk in 1939 and they had two girls and one son, and adopted two boys and a daughter. J. F. Cody writes that at the time of the opening of the Māori court at the 1940 Centennial Exhibition a Māori ceremonial guard was requested by Sir Apirana Ngata and ‘in addition to the military pageantry there was also a haka party, led by Private Anania Amohau, which carried out the traditional welcoming dances and added a Māori atmosphere to the occasion.’ Amohau wrote a marching song called ‘Māori Battalion’ which became one of the most famous New Zealand patriotic songs. He served as a corporal in the 28th Māori Battalion C Company and during the first ceremonial parade of the reorganised battalion in June 1941 led a haka party before the King and Queen of Greece and General Freyberg. Amohau returned to New Zealand because of eye trouble and in 1946 when the Māori Battalion returned to Wellington, on the Dominion Monarch, he performed the wero. He was a recognised expert in haka and in 1953 when Queen Elizabeth came to New Zealand Amohau led the haka and did the challenge at the Rotorua Race Course. He moved to Avalon in 1949 and worked as a clerk at Māori Affairs and then worked at the Petone Woollen Mills for a number of years. He subsequently worked at Gorrie’s Cement Works in Petone until ill health led to his retirement. Amohau was actively involved in Māori concert parties and wrote songs and choral arrangements for a number of different groups. He was involved with Ngāti Poneke, Ngāti Riatana, and a culture group - Te Pataka - which worked in tourism. He taught Māori culture in the adult education programme in Martinborough and Masterton and his culture groups entered Māori culture competitions all over the country. Amohau was a deeply religious man—he was raised in a Catholic home and later converted to the Salvation Army. He presented a 10-minute religious meditation for a television programme which was screened early in 1972 shortly after his death.

Biographical sources

  • Phone conversations and correspondence with Mike Amohau and Jo Hata on 13, 15 and 23 June 1998.
  • 28 (Māori) Battalion. J. F. Cody. Wellington, N.Z.: War History Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, 1956.
  • Guide Rangi of Rotorua. Rangitiaria Dennan with Ross Annabell. Christchurch, N.Z.: Whitcombe & Tombs, 1968. 123.


  • Māori Battalion Marching Song. (Ake! Ake! Kia Kaha E!) Words and music by Corporal Anania Amohau. [Wellington, N.Z.]: Charles Begg, 1940.
  • A famous marching song of the Māori Battalion composed of two verses and a chorus written with a piano accompaniment. In the song Amohau recalls the fighting prowess and tenacity of the Māori of the past and urges the Māori Battalion to ‘march to victory’ and to ‘fight right to the end, For God! For King! and Country! aue! Ake, ake, kia kaha e!’. J. F. Cody, in his 28 (Māori) Battalion (1956), writes that during the preparations for the 1940 centennial ceremonies the Arawa Services League trained a guard of honour, the Arawa Māori Contingent, which was made up of men from Rotorua including Amohau who ‘found the theme of a song running through his head. Words and music gradually took shape; first he whistled it, then he sang it; Captain Royal had some copies typed and soon the Arawa Māori Contingent was singing its own marching song. Rotorua provided its quota of trainees and the men found that their song, now called ‘Māori Battalion’, had preceded them to Trentham. Lieutenant Pike, a bandmaster of the Trentham Camp Band, arranged the music for a military band and the marching song of the Māori Battalion swept the country.’
  • Other

  • “Folk Tales from Papamoa.” Te Ao Hou 17 (1956): 40-44.
  • “Special Tribute to Composer Nan Amohau.” Kuranui-O Ngāti Manawa. Henry Tahawai Bird. [Rotorua], N.Z.: H. T. Bird, 1980. 55.
  • Bird writes a brief tribute to Amohau noting the impact of the Māori Battalion song during the Second World War.


  • Taylor, C. R. H. A Bibliography of Publications on the New Zealand Māori and the Moriori of the Chatham Islands. Oxford: Clarendon; Oxford UP, 1972. 81.