The Māori Battalion spent the first half of the month out of the Alamein line rehearsing desert warfare tactics and maintaining fitness through route marches. On 22 October the Battalion headed back to the front, extremely fit and in high spirits. Colonel Fred Baker thought he had left Reta Keiha, now a temporary major, and Capt Ben Porter resting back at base. However, ‘as soon as they smelt powder’, the two officers had themselves posted back to the front as liaison officers at Divisional HQ.
Padre Rangi had been evacuated sick in September so 2/Lt Tunoa Wanoa, based at Maadi, volunteered to fill his role. The day before the attack he was promoted to acting captain and rushed to the front. ‘We are very pleased to have Tunoa with us,’ wrote one junior officer. ‘He is a young man and a veteran now and so can stand the hardships of the battlefield.’
Montgomery’s long-awaited offensive opened on the night of 23 October. Four divisions—the Australians, Scots, South Africans and Kiwis—positioned in the northern sector made the attack. They were supported by the heaviest artillery barrage so far seen in the desert, some 1400 big guns firing 660 rounds each. During the assault, the Battalion had the role of mopping up behind the lead battalions of both 5 and 6 Brigades who were spread over a 3.2-km front. Their objective was Miteiriya Ridge. Three days after the assault, the Battalion relieved 21 Battalion on the Ridge itself.
At the beginning of October four officers marched out for base camp leaving the Battalion with 32 officers, one of whom was Pākehā. Three more Pākehā officers were attached, as was Mr Charles Bennet who was responsible for the mobile canteen truck ‘Te Rau Aroha’.
- Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel: Fred Baker (CO)
- Major: Irvy Hart
- Temporary Major: Chris Sorrenson
- Temporary Captains: Ruhi Pene, Rangi Logan, Jim Matehaere, Jim Henare
- Lieutenants: Wai Awarau, Ivan Howden, Syd Jackson, Reg Mariu, Paki West, Tutu Wirepa
- Temporary Lieutenants: William Vercoe
- Second Lieutenants: Jim Aperahama, Walton Haig, Ted Hayward, George Marsden, Duncan (A.E.) McRae, Peter Ornberg, Ben Ropata, Roy Te Punga, Rangi Tutaki, Hati Rangiuia, Kia Rika, J Smith, Wally Wordley, Monty Wikiriwhi, Pat Warbrick, Meta Francis, Kuru Waaka, Dick Stephens
- Attached: Lt C. A. Morton, Capt Cam D’Arcy (RMO), Capt Shaw-Thompson (Dentist), Charles B. Bennet (YMCA)
- 1 Oct, Thu 0600 hrs reveille. 0830 hrs Battalion Parade. Routine as per Battalion RO. T/Major Reta Keiha and Capt Ben Porter marched out for a well-earned rest at Base. Capt Terry Gilroy and 2/Lt Herbie Marsden also marched out to base. Lt Tutu Wirepa takes over command of Bren Carrier Platoon. There was an issue of patriotic gift parcels to Battalion.
- 2 Oct, Fri 0600 hrs reveille. 0830 hrs Battalion parade. Companies practise field training as per syllabus. See training exercise and syllabus. 1820 hrs all officers left the Battalion, for a lecture on future training at Brigade.
- 3 Oct, Sat 0600 hrs reveille. 0830 hrs Battalion parade. 0900 hrs companies practise company in attack and route march home.
- 4 Oct, Sun 0600 hrs reveille. 0845 hrs Divine Service was conducted in the Battalion area. Anti-Tank platoon depart to fire practices on 2 pounder. Anti-tank range. 1500 hrs officers conducted TEWTS at a sand table instructed by “I” Sec. 1700 hrs 5 Brigade band play selections in Battalion area. Weekly returns showed the unit’s strength excluding officers was 722 ORs, five of who were attached. 38 men were required to bring the unit to full strength. The total number of officers was 36 (four of whom were attached).
- 5 Oct, Mon 0600 hrs reveille. 0830 hrs Battalion parade. 0900 hrs Battalion leaves on three-hour Route March. 1400 hrs officers practice battle drill as per Training Syllabus. Lt Mervyn Mitchell of Pahiatua arrived and takes command of Anti-Tank platoon.
- 6 Oct, Tue 0600 hrs reveille. 0830 hrs Battalion moves out on motorised transport. Practices desert formation in morning and Battalion in attack in the afternoon as per syllabus. See Routine Orders.
- 7 Oct, Wed 0600 hrs reveille. 0830 hrs Battalion moves out in motorised transport and practices taking up of anti-tank line. 1300 hrs Battalion in attack from motorised transport. There is an issue of beer of two cans per man at PT 5 per can (ie. 5 piastres). 1900 hrs officers attend lecture at Battalion HQ to review training exercises.
- 8 Oct, Thu 0530 hrs reveille. 0745 hrs Rifle Companies enbussed and moved out to Brigade exercise. C and D Coys acted as “enemy” while A and B Coys had the role of mopping up behind attacking Battalions. HQ Coy had specialist training. This day is noted for the fact that there were intermittent showers of actual rain.
- 9 Oct, Fri 0600 hrs reveille. 0800 hrs Battalion parade. 0815 hrs Battalion leaves on a four-hour route march. Afternoon as per syllabus.1930 hrs part of 5 Brigade band played a few popular songs in vicinity of Battalion HQ. See Routine Orders.
- 10 Oct, Sat 0600 hrs reveille. 0830 hrs A and B Coys moved out to the Range under Capt Ruhi Pene. 1330 hrs C and D Coys and remainder HQ Coy proceeded to the range as per syllabus. Lt Pine Taiapa of Tikitiki posted to Battalion from Maori Reinforcements.
- 11 Oct, Sun 0600 hrs reveille. 0815 hrs Battalion moved out in desert formation on Brigade exercise in co-operation with tanks as per Brigade instructions. The area selected was approx. 8 km south of Battalion area. 1415 hrs Battalion with two companies forward followed the tanks into the attack. 1530 hrs exercise completed and the Battalion returned home. During the exercise live rounds were fired by artillery, tanks and infantry. The unit’s strength excluding officers was 699 ORs, five of who were attached. 61 men were required to bring the unit to full strength. For the second time in a fortnight the return of Ptes Puhi Mackie and Joe Ngapo was requested. The total number of officers was 37 (three of whom were attached).
- 12 Oct, Mon 0600 hrs reveille. Routine during the morning as per syllabus. 1230 hrs tabloid sports meeting was held at the Battalion parade ground. D Coy won with B Coy second.
- 13 Oct, Tue 0600 hrs reveille. 0830 hrs all Battalion vehicles moved out to Brigade exercise. 1000 hrs Battalion as part of Brigade Group moved off in desert formation. 1200 hrs lunch. 1300 hrs orders received that the Battalion was to take up the right flank of the Brigade anti-tank line. 1700 hrs exercise was completed and the Battalion returned home.
- 14 Oct, Wed 0600 hrs reveille. 0800 hrs Battalion parade and inspection of Battalion arms and equipment. 0900 hrs Capt Jim Matahaere departs for new Battalion in vicinity Burg el Arab. 1230 hrs officers assembled at Battalion HQ to discuss previous day’s exercise. During the afternoon the companies cleaned up their areas.
- 15 Oct, Thu 0600 hrs reveille Companies began striking tents and cleaning up the Battalion area.1030 hrs Lunch. 1115 hrs Battalion fighting troops’ enbussed and prepared to move. 1145 hrs Battalion moves off in three columns. 1430 hrs Battalion arrives at new area being situated right on beach. RMT Troop carrying transport returned to the old Battalion area. See Routine Orders. Maj Charlie Bennett was posted to the unit today.
- 16 Oct, Fri 0700 hrs reveille. 0900 hrs Company inspection of arms followed by two-hour route march. Remainder of the day is free. The routine is to be the same throughout our stay here. 1400 hrs very severe dust storm with intermittent rain arose and continued until late at night. 2/Lt Jerry Mohi marched in and takes over signal platoon.
- 17 Oct, Sat 0700 hrs reveille. 0900 hrs companies were lectured on the German 50-mm anti-tank gun. During the afternoon companies went swimming. 1900 hrs Battalion in battle order commenced a 25-km route march returning at about 0100 hrs. 1630 hrs company commanders attended Brigade conference.
- 18 Oct, Sun 0700 hrs reveille. 0900 hrs Colonel Fred Baker and IO leave Battalion to recce forward areas. 0930 hrs divine service was held at Battalion HQ. 1010 hrs companies attend a demonstration on the use of the Bangalore Torpedo. During the exercise live rounds were fired by artillery, tanks and infantry. The unit’s strength excluding officers was 697 ORs, six of whom were attached. The total number of officers was 39 (six of whom were attached).
- 19 Oct, Mon 0700 hrs reveille. 0900 hrs companies route march for two hours in the morning.
- 1500 hrs members of the Battalion attended a performance of the NZ Kiwi Concert Party.
- 20 Oct, Tue 0700 hrs reveille. 0900 hrs companies went on two-hour route march. Company commanders leave to recce Battalion position Alam El Onsol. Afternoon was free. 1900hrs conference of all officers was held at Battalion HQ. See Routine Orders.
- 21 Oct, Wed 0700 hrs reveille. Battalion prepares to move from Imayid area to Onsol area. 2045 hrs Battalion in column of route moved via coast road, Sidney Rd, Star Track to Onsol area. The move was done in motorised transport, order of march: A – C – Bn HQ – B – D – HQ Coy. 2345 hrs Battalion arrived at Onsol area, debussed, and after digging slit trenches, retired.
- 22 Oct, Thu “stand to” at first light. 0900 hrs one officer per Coy moved forward to recce Battalion assembly area as per 5 Infantry Brigade O.O. No 8 (Appendix C. 8.). Throughout the day formations of our bombers passed overhead flying towards Enemy Lines. 1700 hrs rations for two meals are issued to each man. 1920 Battalion enbussed and moved via Bottle Track to assembly area. Order of march: BnHq –A –B –C –D Coys. Fighting transport and cook houses remained in Onsol area. 2045 hrs Battalion arrives at assembly area. Battalion dug slit trenches and went to bed. During the night we once more saw the familiar German flares to the North West.
- 23 Oct, Fri “stand to” at first light. 0815 hrs our fighter screen is engaged by enemy ack/ack but no damage is done. 2/Lt Wikiriwhi was posted to 5 Brigade Headquarters. 1500 hrs a message from the Army Commander is promulgated to all ranks. Read Lt-Gen Montgomery’s message. During the day the Battalion prepared for its part in the attack, which Eighth Army was staging that night. 1945 hrs C and D Coys move over to take up position in the rear of 6 Brigade start line. A and B Coys positioned themselves in rear of 5 Brigade start line. Battalion’s role was to mop up the Division’s area behind the assaulting Battalions. 2130 hrs fighting transport moved to a position approx 1000 m behind Battalion assembly area. 2135 hrs attack commenced amid the din of the hundreds of field guns which opened up from the coast to the area some miles south of us. The barrage was colossal and continued without diminishing its intensity till 0200 hrs. The whole area behind Battalion HQ was filled with transport, artillery and tanks waiting to go forward when the enemy line had been breached. 1000hrs word was received that 23 Battalion was on its objective. The attack was successful. See report by Company Commanders.
- 24 Oct, Sat 0700 hrs C and D Coys returned from their mopping up tasks bringing with them four prisoners and they were handed over to Brigade. Company Commanders reported that the artillery barrage they were following was terrific in its intensity. They continued behind their respective brigades up to the final objective and then returned. They cleaned up a few medium machine gun (MMG) posts that had been missed by forward battalions, but all told opposition they encountered was very scanty. Our casualties were:
- Killed: Lt Paki West, five ORs killed, three missing.
- Wounded: Capt Jim Henare, 2/Lt Rangi Tutaki, 2/Lt Pat Warbrick, and 50 ORs. Lt West and “D” Coy casualties are buried at M.R. 87532919 (Alamein 1/100,000.). B Coy casualties buried Alamein 1/100,000. Hot breakfast was bought up to men. Our Artillery and RAF continues to give enemy positions a plastering. Regular waves of 18 Bostons and Mitchells passed overhead accompanied by about 30 fighters. Air superiority definitely ours. 2200 hrs our artillery shells enemy positions until 2330 hrs enemy planes were active over our area dropping flares over our position.
- 25 Oct, Sun stand to at first light. Hot breakfast was brought up by the men. 1115 hrs Capt Chaplain Tunoa Wanoa marched into Battalion from Base. The day was spent by the Battalion resting. 1830 hrs Padre Wanoa holds service with D Coy. 1900 hrs company commanders and O Group conference at Battalion HQ and go forward to recce the 21 Battalion area which the Battalion is to take over. The Padre has service with C Coy. 1930 hrs service with B Coy. 2000 hrs service with A Coy. Throughout the day our RAF passed over our area in south-west direction escorted by fighters (six waves of 18 each) Artillery barrage continues at intervals. Although the enemy replied to artillery none of it landed in Battalion area. The unit’s strength excluding officers had reduced to 633 ORs, six of whom were attached from the NZ Ordinance Corps. 64 men were required to bring the unit to full strength. The total number of officers was 33 (three of whom were attached).
- 26 Oct, Mon “stand to” at first light. Enemy planes over our area are engaged by our anti-aircraft defences and our driven off. 0730 hrs hot meals are bought up from B Echelon to Coys. 1030 hrs Battalion O Group conference at Battalion HQ when orders for Battalion to move to 21 Battalion area are given. 1100 hrs CO’s orderly room. 1900 hrs Battalion bombed by Stukas. Casualties: 2/Lt Ben Ropata killed and three ORs killed, buried at MR 87682942. 1906 hrs Battalion A Echelon moves forward of Battalion area under Battalion 2-i-c. Companies route march to 21 Battalion area approximately 6 km and upon arrival are quickly in position. NZ Engineers moved forward of Battalion area to mine gaps. Battalion continues digging of trenches to 0300 hrs. Battalion HQ is established at 87122925 with RAP at 87112926 E1 Whiska. B and D Coys occupy position South West of feature 87082923 with D on the left. A and C Coys positioned themselves North East of feature. Flanking Units Right 51 Highland Div, Left 22 NZ Battalion. Double sentries on Platoon area are posted, and listening posts were manned during the hours of darkness. Fierce Artillery barrage by our guns at approx 2350 hrs the enemy shelled the Battalion area, especially B and D Coys sporadically. He seems to be very “jittery”. Enemy LMGs continue to fire at our men digging during the night inflicting two casualties, wounded include 2/Lt Mohi.
- 27 Oct, Tue 0500 hrs breakfast. 0800 hrs from this time on the enemy machine gunned our forward companies at regular intervals. Our MMGs reply with longer bursts. North of us a tank battle is in progress. Regular sweeps by our bombers continues throughout the day. 1100 hrs word was received that the Battalion was to be relieved by a South African Battalion this night. 2000 hrs RMT arrives to lift the Battalion from this area. The enemy was shelling the Battalion embussing area vicinity Battalion HQ. Battalion moves off at 0100 hrs approx.
- 28 Oct, Wed First light Battalion settling in after travelling greater part of the night. Battalion digs in and the remainder of the day spent in resting. 2/Lt George Katene and 2/Lt George MacDonald marched in to Battalion from Base and are attached to D Coy.
- 29 Oct, Thu 0615 hrs “stand to”. Companies spent part of the day in checking equipment and cleaning of arms. Companies spent the afternoon at the beach swimming. Capt Pene relinquishes his command of A Coy and is relieved by Capt Matehaere 2ic D Coy. An issue of one bottle of beer was made available.
- 30 Oct, Fri 0615 hrs “stand to”. Battalion rests. Another one bottle of beer per man was issued.
- 31 Oct, Sat 0615 hrs “stand to”. Companies rest in the morning. 1330 hrs Companies paraded and moved to B Coy area to await the arrival of the Brigadier. 1435 hrs Brigadier arrives and talks on the general situation on the whole front and the part to be played by the Division in the near future. After the parade the Brigadier and the Colonel Baker had afternoon tea at Battalion HQ. 1900 hrs unit padre holds service in HQ Coy lines. 2100 hrs Colonel Baker and Intelligence Officer depart for Brigade, when word was given to them that the Battalion was to move to 151 Brigade area and be attached to that brigade. The unit’s strength excluding officers had been reduced again to 589 ORs, five of who were attached. 171 men were required to bring the unit to full strength. The total number of officers was 34 (three of whom were attached).
Archives New Zealand = Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga.
28 NZ (Maori) Battalion Diary, WAII 1 1665 DA 68/1/34
1 Nga Tama Toa, p. 234.
2 Matarehua Wikiriwhi to Weihana Delamere, 30 October 1942, MS Papers-6919-0789, ATL.
3 Nga Tama Toa, pp. 234–235.