Veterans, widows and descendants of the 28th Maori Battalion gathered at Masterton’s Cole St Marae on Saturday. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
Descendants of members of the 28th Maori Battalion will soon see their ancestors’ contribution to World War II commemorated in a new book.
Immediate past president of Nga Uri O Te Rua Tekau Ma Waru, Dick Smith, said he was excited to see the history of D company remembered in a book – something that had been accomplished before for C company.
He was in Masterton over the weekend at a meeting of the group, attended by battalion widows and Wairarapa Maori Battalion veteran Pine Ratapu.
The 28th Maori Battalion had been made up of four rifle companies – A, B, C and D.
“Our group really is D company, D company covers three quarters of the country,” Mr Smith said.
When the 28th Maori Battalion Association still operated, there were six regional branches that made up D company.
“A few years ago of course they wound up because their men couldn’t get to meetings, or couldn’t get a quorum at a meeting.”
Some branches had chosen to stay on meeting under the banner Nga Uri O Te Rua Tekau Ma Waru – which means ‘the descendants of the 28th Maori Battalion’.
The group meets in Wellington, Horowhenua, Manawatu and Wairarapa.
They have commissioned historian Harawira Pearless to write the history of D company.
“His presentation was very well done [on Saturday] and there was so much interest in it,” Mr Smith said.
“He’s travelled the battle grounds where the 28th Maori Battalion fought in Greece, in Crete, in North Africa,” he said.
“He’s been there.”
Mr Smith said one of the biggest challenges of compiling the book was missing the input of D company veterans from the Pacific Islands.
“We have no men left from the islands, we are talking about Tokelau, Niue and Samoa,” he said.
There were only a handful of D company veterans left around the country.
On Saturday, they had quite a few of the veteran’s widows attend the meeting for the first time, he said.
“What the wives were discussing yesterday, was the emotional part of how the men were when they came home.”
They were different when they returned, he said.
“The families are going to be a large part of writing the book.”
Mr Smith said they had two years to get the book written.
They were being funded by the Department of Education and the Department of Culture and Heritage.
On August 26, the group will have its AGM at the Maori Battalion Hall in Palmerston North.