28th MAORI BATTALION - 3600 SOLDIERS
the 28th MAORI BATTALION, commonly known as the Maori Battalion was an infantry battalion of the New Zealand Army that served during WWII
It was formed following pressure on the Labour government by some Maori MPs and Maori organisations throughout the country wanting a full Maori unit to be raised for service overseas.
The Maori Battalion followed in the footsteps of the Pioneer Battalion that served during the First World War which had been very successful and was wanted by Maori to raise their profile and to serve alongside their Pakeha compatriots as citizens of the British Empire.
It also gave a generation of people with a well-noted military ancestry a chance to test their own warrior skills.
Raised in 1940 as part of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF), the 28th (Maori) Battalion was attached to the New Zealand 2nd Division as an extra battalion that was moved between the division's three infantry brigades.
The battalion fought during the Greek, North African and Italian campaigns during the war and a contingent was sent to Japan as an occupation force afterwards.
the following is just a sample of the information available at the above link, go to link for the full story
- On 26 January 1940 the battalion came together for the first time, marking its official raising at the Palmerston North Show Grounds.
Upon formation it was decided that the battalion would be organised upon tribal lines.
The unit consisted of a headquarters company and four rifle companies, designated 'A' through 'D':
* 'A' Company was recruited from North Auckland
* 'B' Company from Rotorua, Bay of Plenty and Thames-Coromandel
* 'C' Company from the East Coast from Gisborne to East Cape
* 'D' Company from Waikato, Maniapoto, Hawkes Bay, Wellington and the South Island, as well as some Pacific Islands and the Chatham and Stewart Islands
- In June July 1940 the 28th (Maori) Battalion were attached to a mixed brigade under Brigadier Harold Barrowclough.
During this time they manned defences in the south of England and undertook further training.
The battalion suffered from a lack of equipment however, largely due to the priority given to re-equip British units following the losses suffered by the British Expeditionary Force in France. As a consequence, training was largely focused upon anti-gas and route marching.
On 6 July they were inspected by King George VI and he was said to have been impressed by the "smartness of the close order and arms drill of the Mâori Battalion" and "by the fine physique, keenness and determined demeanour" of the men
- After sailing via Freetown, Cape Town and Durban, the "Athlone Castle" sailed up the east coast of Africa and entered the Suez Canal, arriving at Tewfik harbour on 3 March 1941.
In the afternoon the battalion entrained and two days later they arrived in the desert, where they were met by motor transport which carried them to camp Garawi, about 20 miles (32 km) from Cairo.
At this point they were met by about 300 reinforcements which were used to replace men who had been laid down with influenza and to bring the battalion up to a higher establishment.
Shortly afterwards they were moved to Alexandria, where they embarked on the Cameronia, bound for Greece
- On 6 April the German invasion of Greece and Yugoslavia began.
In order to help defend Greece a composite force of three divisions of Australian, British and New Zealand troops were to be deployed, and were grouped together under the title of 'W' Force.
However, by the time the invasion began only two of the three divisions had arrived and the New Zealanders were consequent spread thin, holding a position to the north of Katerini, where they were tasked to defend the strategic Olympus Pass to the south.
During this time, the 28th (Maori) Battalion was attached to the 5th Infantry Brigade, which was later grouped with other Australian and New Zealand units to form the Anzac Corps.
Vastly outnumbered, within two days the situation for the Allies was not good as the Germans had broken through the defences along the Bulgarian border and the Yugoslav resistance had collapsed.
As the situation worsened, orders came down from brigade headquarters that the passes would be held "to the last man and last round".
- After being evacuated from Greece, the Maori Battalion embarked upon the Glenglye and was taken to Crete where they formed part of the island's hastily formed garrison.
The 5th Infantry Brigade was allocated to the area surrounding the airfield and the battalion was positioned on the north coast at Platanias, on the brigade's right flank.
On 20 May 1941, the Germans launched the opening stages of their campaign with large-scale glider and parachute drops of troops from Maleme to Canea. The landings were focused in the area around the airfield and no troops landed in the area being held by the Maori, nevertheless, a small force of glider troops were found to be occupying a house on the beach about 0.5 miles (0.80 km). A platoon was dispatched to carry out an attack upon them and after a brief fire-fight in which two New Zealanders were wounded and eight Germans were killed, the 10 remaining men in the house surrendered
- After their escape from Crete, the 28th (Maori) Battalion were evacuated to Egypt where they were re-issued with summer uniforms and began to receive reinforcements. In June they carried out a ceremonial parade for the King and Queen and the commander of the New Zealand 2nd Division, Lieutenant General Bernard Freyberg.
Throughout July, the battalion undertook desert familiarisation training and sports parades before moving to Kabrit where they concentrated with the rest of the 5th Infantry Brigade for a three week combined operations exercise.
Later, in August, they moved to a position 20 miles (32 km) west of El Alamein, known as the "Kaponga Box" where throughout September and into October they undertook the unfamiliar task of road construction.
In October, however, the brigade received orders to link up with the rest of the division in preparation for their commitment to the battle along the frontier
- The battalion returned to Egypt with the 5th Brigade in late-May and underwent a period of refit and retraining, during which the bulk of the original unit was given three months leave and returned to New Zealand.
Following the evacuation to hospital of Lieutenant Colonel Kingi Keiha, there were no suitable senior Maori officers available and he was replaced as commanding officer by Lieutenant Colonel Monty Fairbrother on 11 September.
Having taken no part in the Allied invasion of Sicily in July August, the 2nd New Zealand Division was committed to battle again in late-1943 as part of Eighth Army during the Italian Campaign.
The Maori Battalion subsequently arrived in Italy on 22 October, landing at Taranto.
- On 2 May 1945 news was received that all German forces west of the Isonzo River had surrendered. While this did not officially end the fighting in Italy, it was all but over. Five days later, on the night of 7 May, the battalion received the momentous news that Germany had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies and that the war in Europe was over.
Nevertheless, tensions remained high and concerns about the intentions of Yugoslavia regarding the disputed province of Istria meant that the 28th (Maori) Battalion remained on high alert ...
... Finally, on 6 December the battalion entrained at Florence and embarked upon the Dominion Monarch at Taranto on Boxing Day.
Sailing through the Suez Canal, they sailed via Fremantle, arriving in Wellington on 23 January 1946, where they were met by the acting Prime Minister, Walter Nash, at Aotea Quay for an official Maori welcome home ceremony.
Afterwards the men were sent back to their homes and the battalion was disbanded.
Throughout the course of the war, 3,600 men had joined the battalion. Of these, 649 were killed or died of wounds while another 1,712 were wounded. Another 29 died as a result of service following discharge
LISTEN to an early version of the
'MAORI BATTALION MARCH TO VICTORY' song, written in 1939 by one of the soldiers, Anania AMOHAU, and sung here in te reo Maori
LISTEN & WATCH the footage of the
MAORI BATTALION TRILOGY sung by Prince Tui Teka
- click the window ...
VIEW a large collection of photos in the categories:
* About the 28th
* Call to Arms
* Greece and Crete
* Desert Fighters
* Italian Campaign
* Life in the Battalion
* Home Front
* After the War
NOTE it may be necessary to register (free) to view some photos
WATCH 15 short videos about the Maori Battalion, including the 1946, 10 minute Documentary on the Battalions Return and one of the 2008 Battalion Reunion
READ the Maori Battalion DIARY of April 1941 which includes the
sinking of the HELLAS on 24-4-1941
LISTEN to 52 AUDIO regarding the Maori Battalion, including a speech by Hon Dr Pita Sharples, Minister of Maori Affairs, at the launch of the
28th MAORI BATTALION WEBSITE at Parliament, 6 August 2009
AND these were THE 3600 MEN WHO SERVED with the
28th MAORI BATTALION
the list of solders names at the links below is now complete
However, genealogy info for each soldier is still in progress
* ABRAHAM to AWATERE
* BABBINGTON to BUTLER
* CAIRNS to CURTIS
* DANIELS to DYER
* EDMONDS to EVANS
* FACOOREY to FROST
* GAGE to GUNSON
* HAAMI to HENARE
* HENDERSON to HUTANA
* IHAIA to JURY
* KAA to KEWEN
* KIDWELL to KUTIA
* LAMBERT to LUMSDEN
* MAAKA to MAUHENI
* MAUI to MUTU
* NAERA to OTIMI
* PAAKA to PAWA
* PEACHEY to PUTARANUI
* RAERENGA to REWIRI
* RIA to RYLAND
* SADD to SYLVIA
* TAARE to TAYLOR
* Te ANO to TUTU
* UATUKU to VERCOE
* WAA to WEBSTER
* WEEPU to YOUNG