This article appeared in the April 1992 NZ 28 Maori Battalion Reunion booklet.
In late 1940 when I applied for service overseas I landed in Papakura Camp to be confronted by Sergeant Major Puha. What's your name? Edward Maurice. You are a bloody Frenchman! Address etc. Religion? I said, Agnostic. There is no such religion Puha said. I said there is you know, Abraham Lincoln was Agnostic. So Puha entered me in my AB64, Agnostic C of E.
My father was an officer in the British Army and he told me if I ever got to England I would not be forced to attend Church Parade. I tried it in Papakura but did not get away with it, but when I was in O.C.T.U. in England it was different. That will be another story.
Wellington to Egypt - Fatigues Are Not For Me
Bully Jackson was our D Coy officer, and for some unknown reason my name was always on the notice for duties as MORRIS, but as that was not my name I used to disappear and never had the pleasure of doing the various duties that my friends did. Hati Rangiuia, our other officer, used to say that when he took over I would know all about it. However, when I won a ship's boxing championship I received a prize of 1000 Capstan cigarettes. They were no personal use to me as a nonsmoker so what better than to hand them to Hati. My name never did appear on the duty roster.
Question and Answer
The Aquitania was by now in the Indian Ocean and the N.C.O.'s were giving lectures, but without weapons to demonstrate. And then came the question time. Our corporal at the time was Clem Park from Ruatoria. Their questions or their way of putting them got him properly confused, ergo Maxwell: How deep is the ocean should our ship be attacked by the enemy?
Park: How would I know?
Maxwell: You are the corporal.
Park: No further questions please.
Battington: What is the difference between a Bren gun and a Lewis gun?
Park: The Lewis gun is made of steel and the Bren is made of wood.
(This is not quite as silly as it looks. At this time in N.Z. there were few if any Brens. It seems a wooden model was being used for training purposes on board ship)
The Old Hands Take us Over
We landed in Egypt and were welcomed by Major Bertrand - ''You are joining the crack unit of the crack Division that cracked up in Crete."
Out on a route march, Merv Mitchell in charge. Right, we now rest after 50 minutes marching. Ten minutes are up. "Cigarettes out!" But Corporal Te Hei kept puffing on his pipe. ''Te Hei" I said, "Cigarettes out." Te Hei: "Pipe, Sir." Well, pipe out, screams Merv.
On The Parade Ground
Chief instructor Sgt. TiTi, (nick named by the troops 'Steak Lips' in view of his over-size lips.) "Right, Brace up! On the command, About Turn, All I want to see is, a cloud of dust and a row of statues."
He was a great morale booster as I recall. When we got to Cassino he used to try and read German letters that we found lying around. As each shell landed in the area he would say, "Full Stop!" then continue reading, much to the amusement of those sheltering in the bombed out buildings and rubble.
Building sangers with snow thick on the ground and almost knocking the Bn. HQ tent over - Adjutant Rangi Tutaki after calls to the Orderly Sergeant and working party about half a dozen times without success has become obviously rattled. The C.O. Humphrey Dyer, chirps up. ''Tutaki, you know when a Maori is cold he won't work. You may have to do it yourself" - no more phone calls.
Humphrey Dyer lived in Rotorua for a while after the war, and I got him to address a Dawn Parade on Anzac morning. He gave a moving address. He referred mostly to men who had been killed. One account concerned a young man so badly wounded (his intestines were all over the desert) that there was not the remotest chance of saving his life. Dyer said to him, "Close your eyes, Sonny," and then he shot him. That was being merciful. On the other hand that good deed haunted him and his son. His son eventually went to the Ringatu church to be blessed. The son told me that his father died in peace at his daughter's place in Whangarei!
Still In Syria
Rangi Logan was inspecting No. 4 Platoon with Sgt. Maurice in attendance. We reached the middle row and here was Pera Tamehana who had not had a shave. Rangi stopped - a little cough (a Logan characteristic when about to ask an awkward question or make a telling remark) - "No Shave Tamehara," "No Sir, I shave once a fortnight." Logan: Thirteen days gone. "Sgt. Maurice, make sure he has a shave and report to me."
The snow was over a foot deep and to keep us warm at night each man received a dessertspoonful of over-proof rum. Brunton the C.O.' s batman was given the job of distributing the rum to H.Q. Company. Brunton carried a spare mug into which he put those portions of rum not wanted by some men - teetotallers or men off colour perhaps. Upon completion of his rounds Brunton decided to drink a good half a mug of his savings. Needless to say in a very short time he was rolling around in the snow being a damned nuisance to every body. Next day he was a cot case. Duncan McRae of No.6 Platoon was the Orderly Officer and instructed the RAP people to provide breakfast for Brunton in his tent. Harding the RAP Duty Orderly delivered the meal and found out that an overdose of rum was Brunton's trouble. I remember to this day Harding saying to me in Maori "Mehemea i mohio ahau ko tena te mate o te pokohua nei a kore ahau e hari mai he kai mana."
McRae later said, "Brunton you must have had the Maori sickness." Brunton always dug a deep slit trench wherever we went and he was killed when a mortar landed right inside his trench. He was well liked in H.Q. Coy and we were sad when he met his death.
O.C.T.U. In England
In my intake there were 22 of us selected from the N.Z. Division. We were met at the gate by Earl Cole, Commandant and Regimental Sergeant-Major R. Brittain. "You blokes are referred to as Kiwis, a bird that does not fly. You are right. But you will fly here - at the double." After four weeks on the boat from Italy to Scotland this was a rough introduction.
Having already been issued with clothing and gear we went straight into training. Lesson One - the Bren gun which nobody knew! Then saluting left and right. One chap from 26 Battalion saluted with his left hand and the Drill Sergeant jumped on his hat. Ten days on Elementary training - Lesson One being the correct way to hold the Bren gun. Following this forced training we were supposed to know all the answers. Mind you we reckoned we knew them already - well most of them.
Our First Church Parade
I am in England where an Agnostic is excused from church. So let's give it a try. Here I am in bed when the Sgt. Major walked in - "What the hell are you doing not getting ready for Church Parade? Sgt McQuade, put this man on charge. Charge him with being absent from Church parade and escort him to the Commandant's office.
Commandant: Maurice, how do you plead?
Maurice: Not guilty Sir!
Maurice: I am an Agnostic.
Commandant: Oh, I see. He leaned back in his chair and said, ''You know Maurice, men have been trying those sorts of tricks for a thousand years. You will attend all Church Parades. When the company is called to a halt you will fall out."
The next Sunday, sure enough, that Agnostic New Zealander was fallen out. The following Sunday I was joined by P. Kerr of 23 Battalion. We drank tea together at the N.A.A.F.I. and we are still friends.
A Sergeant-Major of the Very First Rank
I can't imagine a finer specimen of a man as a Sergeant-Major. He was a Coldstream Guard, 6 feet 4 inches tall with a perfect voice for his job. With 300 Cadets on parade and 35 piece band playing we could still hear every word he said.
We were rehearsing our Passing Out Parade and Brittain was screaming, ''You are bone idle! You will keep rehearsing until it is perfect." As we were marching past the screaming Sergeant-Major Pat Kerr said, "Shut up you big fat bastard." He heard it all right, but he couldn't quite figure out who had said it. Pat and I were great mates and still are to this day. He lives in Christchurch. Off the parade ground the Kiwi cadets got on very well with the Royal Military College staff. After all we were all Sergeant-Majors and did conduct ourselves well.
HARRY LAMBERT REMEMBERS
Needless to say Chappie Maurice and I were often associated. The following three incidents I remember well.
1. For a while he was our Orderly Room Corporal in RO. Coy and his boast was that he knew the regimental number, rank and name of every man in the company. I never tested him, but he still greets me as No. 29357 Lambert R.C.A.
2. During the Div's occupation of the rubble that was Cassino town, H.Q. Coy personnel were responsible for getting supplies up. It all happened after dark. A straight bitumen road, the Mad Mile was cluttered with tanks going and coming, and all other military vehicles that had waited for darkness to screen their movements. Needless to say Jerry knew all this and had the road well and truly taped. When things got too hot drains beside the road were shelter for us. We were oblivious to the water and mud in them.
On one such journey Chappie who was driving and I took shelter at the side of the road, under a broken-down tank. Shells and mortar bombs were raining down and shrapnel was whizzing through the air. Maurice and I were flat on our stomachs trying to make ourselves small and trying to find the safest - or perhaps I should say the least dangerous spot. We ended up wriggling into one another. We stopped our frantic activity. We just lay there and laughed.
3. I can't remember quite where we were, but once again I'm O.C. of H.Q. Coy with its six platoons in casas well spread over the Italian Landscape. We are well away from the front and drinking is allowed (there is plenty of cheap red wine - Rooster's Blood - to be had) between the time of 1800 Hrs and 2300. Come 0800 Hrs and Orderly Sgt. Maurice and Capt. Lambert arrive at a Carrier Platoon casa. Noises from the basement prepare us for what is happening inside a most hospitable bunch of the boys who most obviously have had no sleep offer mugs of dark red wine, which we as strict teetotallers decline as firmly as one can decline men in their condition.
As some men in their semi-stupor tried to fill their mugs from a full Jerry can I signal Sgt. Maurice to tip the can over. This he did with alacrity. Several of the onlookers were very near to tears as they watch the dark liquid soak into the earth floor. Some of the more bold among them reckoned lowed them the price of the wine. To which I replied that if they wanted it that way I would put them all on charge and I was sure that their individual fines would all be greater than the price of five gallons of cheap red wine. They just shrugged their shoulders and that was that.
It is so long now since any of the boys have accused me of depriving them of five gallons of wine that I am led to the conclusion that most, if not all of them, have joined the ever increasing numbers of that other Parade to which we are inevitably committed.