Māori Battalion diary - June 1941


The five months between the evacuation of Crete and the Māori Battalion’s next action was a period of adjustment, consolidation and more training. [1]  June was a recovery month for those who had been evacuated and a chance to review the lessons learnt from their first campaign. In the second week of the month the Crete veterans were given seven days’ leave and training resumed on their return.

Some 730 men had set out for Greece in April but less than 500 had returned to Egypt: 84 were dead and 161 had been captured.  The Fifth Māori Reinforcements, six officers and 250 other ranks, who had arrived in Egypt in May and the remainder of the Fourth Māori Reinforcements, would supply the necessary numbers to return the Battalion to full strength. 


  • 1 June: 1930 hrs part of the Battalion which had stayed behind in Crete as rearguard under Maj. Humphrey Dyer arrives by transport at Amyria. They are issued with essentials, fed and quartered for the night in an area opposite the main body. (The main body of the Māori Battalion had arrived from Crete the previous day when they were given an issue of new clothes and their pay). 
  • 2 June: The rearguard was issued with clothing and pay.  1530 hrs Battalion begins transferring to Abdel Kedir railway station.  1700 hrs train departs.  Battalion en route to Helwan.  2400 hrs train arrives at Helwan station where Battalion is met by transport and taken to Garawi camp on Sunstroke Plain.
  • 3 June: 0010 hrs arrive at new camp site.  The men are given a meal before being accompanied to their respective coy areas.  During the day another issue of clothing is made to the men – shorts, shirts, etc.  At the invitation of the Broadcasting Unit the company commanders compile a short talk that is delivered by the IO 2/Lt Charles Bennett.  It deals chiefly with Crete.  Listen to the recording.
  • 4 June: 0830–1030 hrs parade with rest of morning off.  An officers’ shopping party left for Cairo in the afternoon.  1700 hrs Battalion representatives attend the funeral of WOII Rahoroi Tahuriorangi of Rotorua who died while attending a course at OCTU.  He had been B Company’s CSM.  Padre Capt. Kahi Harawira conducts the funeral.
  • 5 June: 0810 hrs Lt-Col. George Dittmer addresses muster parade of Battalion on:  a) behaviour while on leave; b) living up to good name of Battalion created in Greece and Crete.  0900 hrs 50% of those who had been in Greece and Crete leave on seven days’ special leave. 
  • 6 June: Remainder of Crete veterans go on seven days’ special leave.  Lt-Col. Dittmer leaves on a lecture tour of the Canal Zone, Alexandria and Cairo areas.  Those left behind in camp comprise two officers and approximately 40 other ranks – non-Crete men.
  • 7–10 June: Battalion away on seven days’ leave.
  • 11 June: Those who had left on 5 June arrive back in camp.  They all had to be in camp by 2230 hrs.
  • 12 June: Rest of Battalion reports back from leave.  Fairly easy day.
  • 13 June: Battalion adopts new Division syllabus — reveille 0500 hrs and training till 1230 hrs.  Rest period from 1400–1600 hrs followed by an hour of games, P.T., etc.
  • 14 June: Training till 1230 hrs.  15% leave allowed from 1330–2245 hrs. 
  • 15 June: Sunday:  0900 Battalion church parade conducted by Padre Harawira.  It is a special service held in memory of the dead and also to offer thanks for safe deliverance.  The text of the padre’s sermon is “Oh death where is thy sting?  Oh grave where is thy victory?” and the Māori funeral hymn is sung with the usual reverence.  There follows a big hangi lunch — pork, potatoes, cabbage, watermelons and even a bottle of beer each is provided.  Whoever is able to goes on leave in the afternoon within the 15%.  The remainder rests.
  • 16 June: Training as per syllabus.  Dr M. Kronfield replaced Dr Clay as Battalion doctor.
  • 17June: Training as per syllabus but each coy is responsible for putting up sufficient tents to house all, including reinforcements, who are expected.  Tents are pitched during the course of the morning.
  • 18 June: Training as per syllabus.  0900 hrs Maj. George Bertrand holds orderly room.
  • 19 June: 0830 hrs the reinforcements (mostly Fifth Māori Reinforcements), 240 strong, arrive by transport.  They move straight into tribal lots and no time is lost in marching them away into their coy lines.  No reinforcement officers march in with them.  The rest of the day is spent settling in.
  • 20 June: Training as per syllabus.  0630 hrs first Battalion parade with the reinforcements.  Opens with prayer.  1700 hrs Lt-Col. Dittmer returns from lecture tour.
  • 21 June: Training as per syllabus.  Leave in afternoon.
  • 22 June: 0900 hrs Battalion church parade.  1030 hrs Lt-Col. Dittmer calls special muster parade.  Usual percentage of leave personnel in the afternoon.
  • 23 June: Training as per syllabus. 
  • 24 June: Training as per syllabus except that at 1145 hrs Battalion rehearses programme that they intend to give His Majesty the King of Greece who is to visit the Battalion tomorrow.
  • 25 June: Training as per syllabus.  1745 hrs Battalion falls in, in preparation for the King’s visit.  1900 hrs party arrives an hour late. Besides the King in the party are the Queen of Greece, Prince Peter, Maj-Gen. Freyberg, various staff officers and a colourful sprinkling of ladies.  The entertaining is done by two parties — one from Ngāti Porou under 2/Lt Pine Taiapa of Tikitiki and the other an Arawa party led by Cpl Nan Amohau of Rotorua.  The King expresses his thanks through Lt-Col. Dittmer.  (See photos of the Battalion performing haka and C Company meeting the King).
  • 26 June: 0900 hrs all Battalion officers and NCOs, excepting one each per coy, attend a lecture by the GOC at the Shafto Picture House, Helwan Camp.  The two-hour lecture deals with Greece and Crete, more particularly the latter.  The Battalion, back in camp, carries out training as per syllabus.
  • 27 June: Training as per syllabus.  1100 hrs reinforcement officers arrive and are allotted as follows:  Capt. Doug Harvey OC “C Coy”, 2/Lt Hone Green and 2/Lt Jackie Reedy to C, Lt Chris Sorrenson and 2/Lt Henry Toka to A, 2/Lt Addie Mitchell and 2/Lt Aubrey Rota to B, 2/Lt Jim Matehaere to D, 2/Lt Peta Awatere to Pioneer Platoon, 2/Lt Paki West to Signals Platoon, 2/Lt Don Stewart to Mortar Platoon. 1330 hrs Lt-Col. Dittmer calls a conference of all officers at which he welcomes the new officers and speaks on the ideals of the Battalion.  1900 hrs Maj. Bertrand calls coy commanders together to discuss method of spending patriotic and regimental funds to the advantage of the men.
  • 28 June: Training as per syllabus.  The usual 15% is granted leave until 1030 hrs.  This special leave is to be given on Fridays and Saturdays only.
  • 29 June: 0900 hrs Battalion church parade.  Rest of the day easy.
  • 30 June: Training as per syllabus.  Read the syllabus


Archives New Zealand = Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga.
Ref:  28 NZ (Maori) Battalion War Diary, WAII 1 1664 DA 68/1/17.


[1] Monty Soutar, Nga Tama Toa:  the price of citizenship, David Bateman Ltd, Auckland, pp. 156, 176.

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