A Pākehā transfers himself to the Māori Battalion

This article appeared in the April 1992 NZ 28 Maori Battalion Reunion booklet.  

I don't know how many people know that we had a full Pakeha fighting with us in Italy. He was Lance Corporal C.J. McCalman - Mac as he was called by all, joined us during the Sangro action. He actually belonged to 27 Battalion but was frustrated by the fact that they actually saw very little real action, so Mac went AWOL and joined 28th Battalion and saw action with "B" company at Sangro and Orsognia. To avoid his being charged as AWOL or a deserter, Monty Wikiriwhi applied to have Mac transferred to the Battalion and this was duly done. Mac soon became very adept at Homai and other hand games and could out-cheat most of us. He was built like a front row All Black and going into action was always loaded down like a pack-horse: Food, ammunition, weapons, cooking utensils, you name it, Mac carried it.

He always carried a Bengazi Burner and base, a Billy and pot for tea and fowls and a frying pan for pancakes. You can imagine the clanking of this collection going into action. But we only had to stop for a few minutes and Mac had a cup of tea ready - a chook on the boil and his masterpiece pikelets. He always carried a supply of flour, egg powder, milk powder and a tin of fruit salts (in lieu of baking powder and a tin of butter, and given sufficient time the platoon would soon be sitting down to hot pikelet covered in butter and jam and a cup of hot tea.

On our long marches and going into battle you would find Mac carrying not only his own heavy load, but also packs or heavy weapons belonging to some of the smaller members of the platoon. Mac served with the Battalion from the Sangra to the final stages of the advance on Florence, when Mac, with several members of his platoon received a direct hit and died on the 1st of August 1944. A wonderful mate and soldier and respected by all who knew him.

I feel that his story deserves to be told, particularly in these times, when there seems to be so much tension between the two races. Here was a Pakeha who showed his love and respect for our people in a countless number of ways, and whose blood finally mingled with ours on the Field of Battle.

Aubrey Balzer

Submitted by mbadmin on

Comments (6)

Thank you for sharing this story about Mac. It was very powerful to read about our Great Uncle Chanel and to have a glimpse at who he was and to know that after he left Wellington, he was in such great company. I would love to hear or read any other stories. Thanks again.

Kia Ora, I am so grateful to hear korero about my grandather Chanel, who died when my Mum, Pat was only five and my Uncle John was probably 3. One of my biggest wishes is to travel to Florence to visit his grave. I truly appreciate that the Italians have taken great care to look after my grandfather who died in their land and the others who died during the war. It's seems so odd that my Pakeha grandfather of Scottish ancestry fought with no other than the world renowned 28th Maori Battalion, who continue today to be held in high esteem, not only in the Maori world, but by the world generally. My daughter Raukura is writing an assignment about Chanel for an assignment on ANZAC for Wharekura. I'm so pleased that we have found a record of information about him that tells us a little bit about him, even moreso about his life and sadly his death living and fighting alongside Maori. E te tupuna, ahakoa kua ngaro atu koe i a tatou, ka whakaaro tonu ou uri mau, he mihi aroha, he mihi maumahara tenei mau. Jo Mane, daughter of Pat(Paddy McCalman) --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Kia Ora, My father Aubrey Balzer who wrote about your koro, and knew him so well, is still alive and living in Rotorua. If you want more information you could contact him. On 25-26 May, Dad will be in Florence. We are taking him back to Italy for the first time since he left in 1946.Arohanui, Colleen 

I hope your dad enjoyed his trip to Florence. We travelled through there in 2003, beautiful country and wonderful people. Did your father enjoy being back there? Would it be possible to talk to him, I live in Te Teko, not far to travel to see him. My dad loved pikelets,and would make them for us often, perhaps he knew both Chanel and your father.

Chur awesome' definitely one in a million' big ups to yo Koro'.

chur l know sum manes up ahipara wayz chur cuzz!! wuzsuuuuppppp