Ka maumahara tonu tatou ki a rātaou - We will remember them
Our photo features:
- John Manuel No: 62648
- Mark “Bill” White No: 62635
- Te Kooti “Scotty” Reihana No: 39617
- Rangi Takina Henderson No: 26583
Of the four men you can see, only one survived and made it home from World War II. The 28th (Māori) Battalion were sent to some of the harshest battles faced during the war and as a result incurred an excessively high casualty rate.
Remembering our 28th (Māori) Battalion
We're remembering our Second World War 28th (Māori) Battalion - here's some of what we have learned.
It was a contentious issue that Māori offered services for the Second World War (1939 – 1945). Following the effects of colonisation and the New Zealand Land Wars it’s fair to say that not all Māori were keen to volunteer for the British Empire. Leaders such as Te Puia Hērangi were very hesitant, while Sir Aparina Ngata believed participation was exceptionally important and in line with Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Supported by iwi leaders and Māori politicians, many young Māori came forward as volunteers and the 28th (Māori) Battalion was formed as an all Māori infantry unit.
The 28 Māori Battalion was arranged into Companies A, B, C and D. These were predominantly made up of iwi such as:
- A Company were mostly from Ngā Puhi
- B Company were mostly from Ngāi Tūhoe
- C Company were mostly from Ngāti Porou and Rongowhakaata
- D Company were mostly from Waikato, Heretaunga (Hawkes Bay), Taranaki, Ngāi Tahu and the Pacific Islands
The New Zealand 28th (Māori) Battalion fought in many of the most extreme battles of the Second World War across Greece, Crete, North Africa and Italy. There are many accounts of the Battalion’s extraordinary heroism, humour, optimism, unity and musicality. They became internationally famous and by the end of the Second World War in 1945, they were our most celebrated infantry. They were also our most decorated, with the 28th (Māori) Battalion receiving 99 honours and awards – the highest of all New Zealand infantry battalions.
Famously, German General Siegfried Westphal, Field Marshal Rommel's chief of staff, stated "Give me the Māori Battalion and I will conquer the world."
Sadly, the Māori Battalion’s casualty rate was 50% higher than the average over all the New Zealand infantry battalions. This, and their noted recognition are a mark of the extreme battles they fought and risks they were prepared to take. NZ Division Commander General Freyberg famously said: "No infantry had a more distinguished record, or saw more fighting, or, alas, had such heavy casualties..."
This Battalion are a great source of pride to our country and our Second World War allies. We know they are also a great source of pride to the many whānau and tamariki who have descended from them.
Remembering Te Rau Aroha
Te Rau Aroha is a term of respect given to those whose actions embody courage and service to their fellow citizens (Te Rau Aroha Museum,Waitangi).Te Rau Aroha, was the gifted name of a mobile canteen truck, sent from Aotearoa to the 28th (Māori) Battalion soldiers, filled with treats and kai from ‘home’ as mark of manakitanga and funded by local kura - tamariki and whānau, just like your own. They raised money and sent preserves for Charlie YM Bennet, whow served them, alongside a hot kaputī and news of home.
We have read stories of how Te Rau Aroha broke down a number of times, resurrected, pulled through long stretches of terrain - an important part of this time. Te Rau Aroha embodied its name carrying not just ‘supplies’ but aroha,awhi and hope. Upon returning to Aotearoa Te Rau Aroha toured kura as a thank you and has recently been given pride of place at Te Rau Aroha Museum, Waitangi. Beloved and fiercely protected, even today. To read more head here.