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The Maori Battalion - Unique Warriors

Updated on October 23, 2014

The Maori Battalion was a unit of the famous 2nd New Zealand division that fought in Greece, Crete, the Western desert, and Italy. They were renowned, in an already noted Division, for their prowess on the battlefield. In its ranks were lawyers and teachers serving as soldiers so that they could go into battle as had their forbears less than a century earlier. Here you can find links to a history of these men.

My Superhero is...The 28th Maori Battalion Royal New Zealand Army

Anyone who goes out to fight for his country is a hero in my book. It is someone with the guts to put his life on the line for the land he (or she) adopted as "home". It is sad that there have to be soldiers, but while there are ill-intentioned men who desire to take from others, deadly force is needed on your side to counter their threat. It was once said that the politicians should square up on the battlefield when their diplomacy failed. It might make them more willing to use diplomatic channels rather than violent channels.

However, my hat is off to the Maori of the 28th Battalion as they were volunteers, adventurers and effective warriors. Their story is below!

What I've learned from this unit

The Maori Battalion was a family at war. They had a high expectation of themselves and their capabilities. Suffering heavy casualties was a consequence of this as some rash deeds were carried out, but there was a verve and vim that these men carried into battle which struck fear into their German opponents.

My favorite memory of this unit...

Irreverent to the core. But the very bloke you wanted on your side in a fight. They stuck together and saw that their fellow soldiers "made it". Buoyant in the worst of conditions and willing to push on through. These qualities reflected the good character of the maori warrior and their concern to be a good example.

Here is an example of the inherent good nature of these warriors taken from the official New Zealand History of the Maori Battalion. The link is at the bottom of the page.

"Second-Lieutenant Waaka,8 commanding the leading platoon, of B Company paints a vivid picture:

"I called to my platoon (No. 11) to deploy and swing right and we headed straight in at the gallop. We went straight through Jerry's groups of slit trenches (I always thought he grouped his trenches too closely-not more than six feet apart in this instance). Those who were not accounted for were left for the remainder of the Battalion who by now were following with the usual Maori roar and battle cry. By now 'A' Coy, the Ngapuhis from Northland, had swung up on our right. "It was a tough job in the heat of the moment to get the boys to swing left again but we managed it."

NOTE: It is difficult in the heat of battle to change the direction of a charge. So this faint praise is very modest.

A lone Jerry suddenly jumped up not more than twenty yards in front of our line of advance and ran. He didn't run directly away but at about a 45 degrees angle to the left. The moment he was sighted which was plain enough in the moonlight, a cry went up, everyone let fly with tommy guns (effective range160' and 20 and 30 round magazines), brens (600 yard range and 20 or 30 round magazines) and rifles. As the chap beside me was reloading he yelled out 'Go for it boy!'

NOTE: There is a story I heard of a Maori pa being attacked by British soldiers who ran out of ammo. The Maori defenders offered to supply them the ammo so that their enjoyment of the battle could continue!!

Well go for it he did, flat out and believe it or not he got away with at least 20 or 30 weapons firing at him. I'm sure everyone had a grin on his face. I know I did..."

And testimony to their effectiveness:

Lieutenant Morrin,22 19 Armoured Regiment, who with his tank was involved in the subsequent proceedings, describes what followed and what earned McRae the award of the DCM:

"As we were pulling out once to replenish with ammunition, we had a small dump in behind the Convent, a Maori (WO I McRae) who was in one room at the end of a long building, made out he wanted us to shoot up the end room. We obliged with HE from the 75 and Browning and carried on, on his instructions, at various openings, doorways and windows, in the building. This went on for some time. We fired quite a number of rounds of HE and a few belts of Browning at a range from about eight feet to 60-70 yards.

NOTE: This would be devastating on a building and the occupants.75mm HE rounds are not as bad as 155mm shells, but they still have enough explosive power to demolish walls and throw masonry around.

"We noticed one of the Maoris, there were only two of them, had a Hun prisoner by then and the following was most natural and realistic. McRae made the Hun to understand if he told the rest of the Huns to surrender all would be well, if not he would be shot. The movement of McRae's tommy gun was dinkum enough. The Maori won out OK and in next to no time Huns were everywhere, dozens of them. I think there were round 70-80 that came out alright and with the dead and wounded the score for the building would be near the 100 mark. My tank I think did most, if not all the shooting on this building, but 2 Lt Carmichael in his tank was on the scene before the end of the action. I omitted to mention that the prisoner was pulled out of the tank in the room.

NOTE: It looks like he is saying there was a German tank parked inside the building!!

"He was the wireless operator and McRae's observation was done by looking through a doorway which led into a long corridor.

McRae's haul of prisoners, probably larger than the total number taken to date, did not exhaust the supply, for the Maoris had a very troublesome day with odd snipers who had infiltrated or re-emerged in their rear. The reason for the large number of enemy being concentrated in one building has never been satisfactorily explained, but it is probable that the building was a rendezvous for infiltrating parties who had lacked the time or inclination to spread out during the hours of darkness."

Readers: What do you think of my Superhero?

It is always of value to preserve the traditions of the past where they are not just of sentimental value. The values that the Maori hold differ from that of the europeans in that they have a closer fraternity and a tradition of courage and fearlessness on the battlefield. It is better to have these qualities concentrated rather than diluted amongst people who do not understand them.

Is there a need for a separate Maori Battalion in the New Zealand Army

No, they are all New Zealanders

No, they are all New Zealanders

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Yes, the warrior tradition sets these men apart from European descendents

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Books my Superhero likes (or wrote, or should read)

The official history of the Maori battalion put out by the New Zealand Governments history department is a great source of the basic data, but there are books about Ngarimu and other well known warriors that give an in-depth view of these unique soldiers.

Documentary on the Maori Battalion - A renowned volunteer battalion in a renowned division

The language spoken for the first 90 seconds is the Maori Language.

For more information on how the song came about, read from the first chapter of the Official History of the Maori Battslion. The link is at the bottom of the page.

Maori Battalion song - from YouTube

Only the first 30 secounds or so are the actual song, the rest is interesting because of the photos of the battalion

More stills on the Maori Battalion

The Maori Battalion song starts at about 0:47 but is only a snippet. Some interesting pictures shown in the video

The Maori Battalion in World war II - Official New Zealand Government History

Issued in 1956, this is a compilation of all the material collected on the 28th Maori Battalion.

Of special interest is chapter one where is described the formation of the battalion and especially the volunteer basis on which the ranks were filled. You get the feel that the volunteers had a pride in their tribe and New Zealand and wanted to do their bit.

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      kylekartarn 6 years ago

      Heard of the Haidas? Squid me at squidoo.com/haida-indians

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      pawpaw911 6 years ago

      Nice superhero. Very interesting. I just did a lens on collecting WWII memorabilia, so I thought I would check out some other military history lenses.