Epineha Ratapu, one of the last members of the Māori Battalion, farewelled in Tokomaru Bay

Traffic came to a standstill today in the tiny East Coast town of Tokomaru Bay, as one of the last members of the legendary Māori Battalion was farewelled.    

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People paid their respects in Tokomaru Bay to farewell one of a kind. Source: 1 NEWS

Epineha Ratapu served in North Africa, Italy and Japan in World War II.

Today the military top brass were in Tokomaru Bay to farewell a man who was one of a kind.

"You inspired many people, you and all of the other men of the 28 Māori Battalion, to follow your footsteps, to want to be like you," NZ First's Ron Mark said in tribute today.

Epineha Ratapu was the very last member of the famous Māori Battalion's C company, affectionately known as cowboys.

The 98-year-old had a long fighting history. After seeing action in the African and Italian campaigns, he went on to Japan.

"To volunteer again to go back to JForce, in this day and age some people don't seem to understand," Mark says.

"They are more focused on having the right car, the right cellphone ... than they are about service."

He was a loved koro, who spent much of his life in Masterton, but his last wish was to return home to his tribal roots on the East Coast.

"We're so happy that side of the family allowed him to come home," his mokopuna Karauria Ratapu says.

Many found it hard to say goodbye as the Coast honoured him on his last journey.

"It's time for him to return to his tūpuna," Karauria says.