Māori Battalion diary - July 1941


With the numbers in the unit now close to full strength (i.e. 780 men) the Battalion began training for a new kind of war― highly mobile fighting across the huge spaces of the North African desert. For the most part, training was intended to make the men familiar with the infantry’s latest weapons and to condition each soldier to function comfortably in desert conditions. Inter-unit sports activities were introduced to improve fitness and to create further cohesiveness within and between battalions.[1]

At the beginning of July there were 29 officers with the unit: 

  • Lt-Colonel: George Dittmer
  • Majors: George Bertrand, Humphrey Dyer
  • Captains: George Weir, Tiwi Love, Doug Harvey, Rangi Royal, Whetu Werohia, Paul Te PungaLieutenants: Charles Bennett, Ben Porter, Reta Keiha, Terry Gilroy, Chris Sorrenson
  • Second Lieutenants: Peta Awatere, Don Stewart,  Henry Toka, Ariari (Addie) Mitchell, Aubrey Rota, Hone Green, Jack Reedy, Jim Matehaere, Atanatiu Te Puni, Ruhi Pene, Rangi Logan, Jim Tuhiwai, Paki West
  •  Attached: Capt. M. Kronfield (RMO), Capt. Kahi Harawira (unit padre)


  • 1 July: A, B and HQ Coys carry out range firing at Garawi Camp Range.  Rest of Battalion training as per syllabus.
  • 2 July: C and D Coys firing at Garawi Camp Range while rest of Battalion training as per syllabus. 1530 hrs lecture on Crete Operations postponed as Lt-Col. Dittmer away on seven days leave. Instead companies carry out kit inspection and issuing of stores.
  • 3 July: Normal training.
  • 4 July: On account of the somewhat indifferent results obtained on the range the whole morning was devoted to SAT. Normal training in the afternoon.
  • 5 July: Route march following a triangular course.  Half the Battalion goes in a clockwise direction, the other half in an anti-clockwise direction. 
  • 6 July: Normal training.
  • 7 July: Normal training.  In the evening the majority of officers attend a legal lecture in the 21 Battalion mess.
  • 8 July: Normal training except that the first hour after Battalion parade and again at 1630 hrs is devoted to ceremonial drill.  0930 hrs to 1215 hrs route march carried out by companies.  1400 hrs Lt-Col. Dittmer calls a conference with his company commanders to discuss:  a) why a high percentage of the Battalion was left behind in company lines when they should have been on the route march; b) arrangements for Battalion sports and picnic which are to be held on the morrow.  A Divisional swimming carnival was held at Helwan and the following three championships were won by members of the Battalion. 
    100 yds invitation – 2/Lt Ruhi Pene.  50 yds open - Pte Haane Manahi
    10-man relay race for Freyberg Cup – 28 Bn 1st, 7 Anti-tank 2nd. 18 Bn 3rd.  This was the team 2/Lt Pene of Rotorua, 2/Lt Rangi Logan of Waipaoa, Pte Rangi Chase of Danniverke, Pte George Harrison of Taranaki, and Jack Mikaere, Pine Timihou, John Pene, Ceylon Wickliffe, Haane Manahi and Wi Heretaunga all privates of RotoruaSee photo of 10-man relay team.  50 yds invitation – Pte Jack Mikaere 2nd to Lt Noel Crump100 yds medley - Pte Ceylon Wickliffe 2nd.  50 yds backstroke – Pte Mikaere 2nd, Pte Heretaunga 3rd.
  • 9 July: 0840 hrs Battalion picnic by bus to Whitoria Club Grounds.  1000 hrs arrival.  1030 hrs commencement of sports.  Results:  100 yds – D Coy, high jump – HQ Coy, relay – D Coy, hop step and jump – B Coy, putting the shot – A Coy, tennis – HQ Coy, 220 yds – B Coy, swimming – B Coy, tug-o-war – C Coy.
  • 1500 hrs Battalion transport conveyed some members of the Battalion to the zoo.  1630 hrs men return to camp.  1950 hrs arrival at camp.  The following officers marched out to Combine Training School at Maadi:  Capt. Love of Wellington, Lt Bennett of Rotorua and Lt Keiha of Gisborne, 2/Lt Reedy of Ruatoria, 2/Lt Te Puni of Wellington and 2/Lt Logan of Waipaoa.
  • 10 July:   0530 hrs reveille.  0600 hrs check parade.  0820 Battalion parades then moves to Brigade parade ground for inspection by brigade commander Brig. James Hargest.  1000 hrs inspection completed and 10 minutes later Lt-Col. Dittmer instructs coy commanders to proceed with Battalion route march.  1030 route march under company arrangements begins.  1230 hrs end of route march.  1630 Battalion parade, with ceremonial rehearsal until 1830 hrs.  1900 hrs men’s mess.
  • 11 July: 0530 hrs reveille.  0600 hrs company check parade.  0745 Battalion parade.  0800 march on to Fifth Brigade parade ground, the brigade consisting of 21, 22, 23 and 28 Battalions.  0820 inspection and address by Brig. Hargest.  1030 hrs normal training until lights out.
  • 12 July: Normal training.  0830 hrs all available officers and NCOs proceed to Shafto’s Cinema at Helwan to attend lecture by Brigadier Puttick, “Operations of NZ Division in Crete”.  Third T.A.B. (Typhoid) inoculation for all ranks needing it.  Most of these men were Fourth Reinforcements.  Remainder of troops normal training.  15% afternoon leave.
  • 13 July: Normal training.  0930 hrs Sgt George Katene of Wellington, Sgt Wananga Haig of Tikitiki, Pte Huraa Marsden of Awanui, Cpl Mita Francis of Rotoiti, the RSM WOI Ace Wood of Nelson and Sgt Pani Manawatu of Christchurch proceed to Div HQ, Helwan to appear before a Board of Selection for OCTU candidatesUsual 15% afternoon leave.  The following officers marched into camp:  Capt. Fred Baker originally from Hokianga, Lt Gordon Ormond of Mahia, 2/Lts H. T. Maloney of Temuka, Jack Ormsby of Te Kuiti, Tutu Wirepa of Hicks Bay, Tony Tikao-Barrett of Lyttleton, and Pine Taiapa  of Tikitiki. Field returns for the week show Battalion’s strength at 22 officers (of which two were attached). 
  • 14 July: 0530 hrs reveille.  0715 hrs Battalion parade.  0720 Battalion marches onto Fifth Brigade parade ground.  0730 GOC General ‘Tiny’ Freyberg inspects the Brigade.  1850 hrs inspection completed and battalions march off.  Brigade given rest of the day off by GOC
  • 15 July: Normal training.  0915 hrs all available officers and NCOs proceed by motor transport to witness tank hunting at Dhobi Lines. See photos of this period.  1105 hrs return to camp.  1600 hrs CO's conference with officers.  Discuss plans, formations and tactics for operations by companies tomorrow night.
  • 16 July: Normal routine.  Advance part under Lt Terry Gilroy left for Kabret Training Centre.  Capt. Royal marched out to NZ Tactical School at Maadi and Capt. Werohia transferred to Helwan.
  • 17 July: 0700 hrs the transport was inspected by Brigadier Hargest.  Otherwise training was normal routine.  1130 hrs Battalion proceeds by companies through the Gas Tent. 
  • 18 July: Normal training. 
  • 19 July: 0845 hrs lecture at Shafto’s Cinema at Helwan for all available officers and NCOs.  Subject was 'Operations in Crete' by Brigadier Hargest. Otherwise normal routine.  Lt Dan Urlich of Ahipara marched into camp.
  • 20 July: Normal routine. CO George Dittmer writes letter to Sir Apirana Ngata updating him on the battalion's efforts in Greece and Crete.  See letter.
  • 21 July: Organised games carried out and night operations postponed.  Otherwise normal routine
  • 22 July: Normal routine excepting that night operations were carried out.
  • 23 July: Normal routine.  Organised games postponed until tomorrow.
  • 24 July: 0600 – 0700 hrs normal routine.  1830 hrs Battalion parade.  0930 – 1200 hrs practice in tank hunting.  1630 hrs Battalion sports on Battalion parade ground.  2100 – 32300 hrs night operations.
  • 25 July: 0600 – 0700 hrs company drill.  0820 hrs Battalion drill parade.  0930 – 1130 hrs tank hunting by companies. 1200 – 1300 hrs Battalion tug-o-war competition.  HQ Coy’s 'B Team’ wins event.  Special leave for 50% of Battalion granted. 
  • 26 July: Normal routine.  0800 hrs Battalion parade.  0830 – 1130 hrs Company route march.  1330 – 2200 hrs the remaining 50% of Battalion was granted leave.  1800 hrs received movement order for shift to a new camp area.  Field returns for the week show Battalion’s strength at 748 men:  i.e. 32 officers, 64 NCOs, including two sergeants – a fitter and an armourer from NZOC, and 652 privates, including two fitters from NZOC and a private from the NZ Chaplains Dept.
  • 27 July: As per movement order.  Arrival late afternoon.  Location is Kabrit. See sketch
  • 28 July: A special syllabus was issued for this day in preparation for combined operational training with the Navy. Strength decreased when the following officers marched out to Base Camp at Maadi:  Lt Ormond and 2/Lts Wirepa, Ormsby and Tikao-Barrett.
  • 29-31 July: Normal routine as per syllabus. 


Archives New Zealand = Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga.
28 NZ (Maori) Battalion War Diary, WAII 1 1664 DA 68/1/19.


[1] Monty Soutar, Nga Tama Toa: the price of citizenship, David Bateman Ltd, Auckland, pp. 180.

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