Māori Battalion diary - March 1942


At the beginning of the month the Battalion, as part of the Second New Zealand Division, left Egypt for Syria. The Division was transported up through Palestine and Lebanon, where the Māori soldiers saw many of the biblical places they had learned about as children. At Arsal they spent their time exploring the country and improving defences as it was felt the Germans, who had invaded the Soviet Union, might attempt to push down from Turkey.[1]

At the start of March the Battalion had a full complement of 33 officers plus the doctor, chaplain, a dentist, and three Māori subalterns – the latter six being attached to the unit.

  • Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel: Humphrey Dyer
  • Captains: Fred Baker (Bn 2ic), Chris Sorrenson, Charles Bennett, Gordon Ormond, Reta Keiha, Ben Porter.
  • Temporary Captains: Rangi Logan, Jim Tuhiwai
  • Lieutenants: Peta Awatere, H. T. Maloney, Jack Ormsby, Henry Toka, Ruhi Pene.
  • Second Lieutenants: Wai Awarau, Jim Henare, Jim Matehaere, Tony Tikao-Barrett, Syd Jackson, Reg Mariu, Matt Swainson, George Marsden, Peter Ornberg, Roy Te Punga, Ted Hayward, Kuru Waaka, Ace Wood (adjutant), Meta Francis, Walton Haig, Duncan McRae, Ben Ropata, William Vercoe, Eddie Morgan.
  • Attached: Capt. R. McDonald (RMO), Capt. Chaplain Kahi Harawira (unit padre), Capt. R. Shaw-Thompson (unit dentist) and 2/Lts Rangi Tutaki, Jim Aperahama and Hupa Hamiora.


  • 1 Mar: Battalion stationed at Kabrit. 0530 hrs a road party consisting of Capt. Chris Sorensen, 2/Lt Duncan McRae and 38 ORs departs in Battalion vehicles for new area, taking with them only the most important Battalion stores. 0930 hrs Divine Service. Remainder of the day spent in preparations for the move.
  • 2 Mar: 0630 hrs reveille. Battalion continues packing; all tents are struck, company stores packed, and all arms and ammunition prepared for the move. 0800 hrs Transport commences moving gear to the baggage train. 1330 hrs Bren Carriers leave camp en route to the train. 1500 hrs Battalion is paraded and systematically cleans Battalion area. The baggage party with 2/Lt Ted Hayward and 2/Lt Eddie Morgan are at Genefia Station ready to move with the baggage train. 2000 hrs early tattoo, in view of the fact that all ranks must be ready to move next day. The Battalion sleeps in the open as all tents have been moved to the baggage train.
  • 3 Mar: 0530 hrs reveille. 0545 hrs breakfast. 0700 hrs Battalion commences moving by vehicles to Genefia Station in readiness to entrain. 0920 hrs although the train was several hours late according to the timetable, the Battalion and the 31 Anti-Tank Battery, who were attached for the journey to the new area, were entrained 20 minutes behind scheduled time. 1130 hrs Battalion arrived at Quantara, crossed the Suez Canal and had a hot meal. 1815 hrs Battalion entrained again after several hours rest and continued the journey.
  • 4 Mar: 0615 hrs After travelling all night the Battalion arrived at a small station about 8 miles (13 km) from Haifa. 0730 hrs having marched about 4 miles (6 km) the Battalion entered Tirah Transit Camp situated in an olive grove. The men appreciated their surroundings, after spending months in the desert. 1300 hrs whole Battalion went on a 3-hour route march. It was pleasant to march amongst green fields again, in a country reminiscent of Greece. 
  • 5 Mar: 0700 hrs reveille. The normal Routine of Kabrit was carried out. A, B and C Coys. Commence a three and a half hour route march. Owing to the inclemency of the weather the remainder of the Battalion did not route march in the afternoon as was intended, but spent an hour on squad drill.
  • 6 Mar: 0700 hrs reveille. There was no route march in the morning due to the wet weather, so the time was spent cleaning weapons. 1330 hrs the weather had improved so the whole Battalion went out on a 4-hour route march. 1900 hrs Mobile Film Unit showed the film Cross-Country Romance.
  • 7 Mar: 0630 hrs reveille. 0700 hrs breakfast. 1015 hrs Battalion embussed in 25 civilian buses and continued on the journey. 1215 hrs there was a halt for lunch. The road passed through some magnificent green country. The journey continued through country full of Biblical associations. 1930 hrs the main part of the Battalion arrived at Damascus Transit Camp, had a good hot meal and went to bed. Some of the buses broke down en route and arrived some hours later. All men were fed however and received blankets and a good bed. The unit’s strength for the week, excluding officers, was 738 ORs. (incl. 3 attached); 34 ORs were required to bring the Battalion to full strength. The Battalion’s officers numbered 38, 5 of whom were attached.
  • 8 Mar: 0500 hrs reveille. 0515 hrs breakfast. 0745 hrs Battalion embussed in Army Transport left Damascus on the last stage of their journey. 1245 hrs Battalion arrives at its destination Djediede – the actual camp being at Zabboud. 1300 hrs lunch. The remainder of the afternoon was spent in the usual routine of settling in.
  • 9 Mar: 0630 hrs reveille. 0900 hrs Battalion parade. The CO lectured the Battalion for an hour on Syria and the political and military situation here. The remainder of the day was spent in general cleaning-up of the camp area.
  • 10 Mar: 0630 hrs reveille. Normal Routine as per syllabus.
  • 11 Mar: 0630 hrs reveille and normal routine.
  • 12 Mar: 0630 hrs reveille and normal routine. A reconnaissance of the new defensive area for the Battalion is carried out by the IO and his intelligence section.
  • 13 Mar: 0630 hrs reveille. Coys in the forenoon proceed on route march at 1500 hrs. 2/Lt Te Roy Punga (Battalion IO) and 2/Lt William Vercoe proceed to Cairo area on special courses with several ORs.
  • 14 Mar: Normal routine as per syllabus and the first Coys A and D march out to new area, at 0900 hours. The unit’s strength for the week, excluding officers, was 725 ORs (incl. 3 attached); 47 ORs were required to bring the Battalion to full strength. The Battalion’s officers numbered 38, 5 of whom were attached.
  • 15 Mar: B and C Coys move out to new area at 0900 hrs by route march. Remainder of the Battalion are busy within the old camp preparing for their departure tomorrow.
  • 16 Mar: Maj. Tiwi Love and Capt. Terry Gilroy marched in with 20 ORs, reinforcements from Composite Training Depot. With them were also a percentage of Leave Personnel who had commenced leave at Kabrit prior to our departure for Syria.
    Bn Hqrs and HQ Coy proceed by route march to join the rest of the Battalion in the new area. Only a small detachment was left behind in the old camp as guards and general rear party with Maj. Love in charge. This move to the new area had to be extended over a period of days because of the shortage in transport, Coys marching and the few vehicles available making several trips to and from the new area with all the equipment on the Battalion scale. New area: Anti-Lebanons vicinity Arsal.
  • 17 Mar: Battalion is settling in. Arms and equipment are being cleaned and the bivouac areas are being dug in and tents pitched and made habitable, while the siting and consolidating of section posts within Coy areas is also being pushed ahead.
  • 18 Mar: 0630 hrs reveille and the day is spent digging in. The detachment left in the old area moves into the present location and the weather begins to change, showers of rain falling accompanied by strong gusts of wind.
  • 19 Mar: 0630 hrs reveille. Heavy rain interferes with the consolidation works in progress over the whole Battalion area.
  • 20 Mar: 0630 hrs reveille. A welcome issue of warm woollen goods, gifts from the Australian Comforts Fund, is made to all troops. With the bleak weather prevailing rum is also issued to the troops at night. Some soldiers went to the nearby village of Arsal and got into trouble. See Routine Order 177
  • 21 Mar: 0630 hrs reveille. Normal consolidation works in progress. The unit’s strength for the week, excluding officers, was 748 ORs (incl. 3 attached); 24 ORs were required to bring the Battalion to full strength. The Battalion’s officers numbered 40, 5 of whom were attached.
  • 22 Mar: 0630 hrs reveille. 1000 hrs divine service for all Coys is held in the HQ Coy area lines at 1200 The weather changes for the worst, and snow begins to fall until the whole area is carpeted with 3 to 4 inches of snow.
  • 23 Mar: 0700 hrs reveille. The snow is still lying thickly on the ground hampering further progress with the consolidation of the area.
  • 24 Mar: The weather has lifted. A number of Church of England members proceed to Beirut for a confirmation service under the charge of unit chaplain Capt. Chaplain Kahi Harawira.
  • 25 Mar: 0630 hrs reveille. Normal consolidation work in progress. Several members of the Battalion are taken to Baalbeck to the Disinfestor Centre for treatment.
  • 26 Mar: 0600 hrs reveille. B and C Coys and HQ Coy route march to the shower baths at E1 Aine then spending the day in the field. 2/Lt Walton Haig evacuated to hospital.
  • 27 Mar: 0630 hrs reveille. Shower Bath Parade for Bn HQ and D Coy at El Aine, proceeding by route march at 0815 hrs. Three members of the Intelligence Section attend Brigade HQ for cypher syllabic instruction. Raining, otherwise normal digging in tasks of section posts, etc. A small percentage of unit proceed to Homs on day leave.
  • 28 Mar: 0630 hrs reveille disinfestor treatment for the whole Battalion commences this day, Bn Hqrs and D Coy being the first Coys to go through with the treatment. This was done at El Aine where the mobile disinfestor was stationed having moved up from Baalbeck.  1430 hrs a detachment of the Cypriot 6 Pack Transport Coy together with approximately a section from each Coy of the Battalion carry out a reconnaissance of the neighbouring country. They travelled via Arsal village in a North Easterly direction for about 14 miles (22 km). Rations were carried for 24 hrs and wireless communication was maintained throughout. Particular attention was given to routes out suitable for motorised transport and locations of water holes. Two officers accompanied the party viz, 2/Lt Syd Jackson and 2/Lt Jim Aperahama. The unit’s strength for the week, excluding officers, was 738 ORs (incl. 3 attached); 34 ORs were required to bring the Battalion to full strength. The Battalion’s officers numbered 40, 5 of whom were attached.
  • 29 Mar: 0700 hrs reveille. Divine Service was held in HQ Coy Lines, B Coy attended the disinfestor treatment parade and in the afternoon the reconnaissance party returned, the detachment from 6 Pack Transport Coy returning to its own area.
  • 30 Mar: 0630 Reveille. Normal works in progress.
  • 31 Mar: 0630 Reveille. Normal routine. Completion of disinfestor treatment for all members of the Battalion. 2/Lt Eddie Morgan evacuated to hospital.



Archives New Zealand = Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga
Ref: 28 NZ (Māori) Battalion Diary, WAII 1 1664 DA 68/1/27-28


[1] Nga Tama Toa, p. 214.

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