Brigadier Frederick Hanson of the New Zealand Engineers, recorded during a Māori Battalion reunion, recounts humorous stories about landmines in North Africa and foraging for livestock in Italy.
Well I remember putting out some... we were expecting Rommel down and we were to go out and put mine fields out in the front to stop his tanks coming in on the division. And, we had no mines though, but what we did have was a little bit of barbed wire, we ran this up, and we had the sappers going for their lives digging little holes and covering them up as though they were mines freshly laid. And of course tanks are very afraid of mines as you know. Well we were going on and we came in front of Māori Battalion we were still carrying on putting up the wire, just digging these little holes and one of these boys comes up and he says:
"No, no mines."
"What a bloody Māori trick." (laughter from the audience).
We went onto Italy, and there the Sappers and the Māoris became much more closely associated again because of the number of pigs and geese and turkeys that were to be had. If ever I met a Māori boy and he had a pig, I'd say:
"Here where'd you get that?"
"Oh killed in the barrage".
If ever I met a Sapper and he also had a pig I'd say:
"Now where the hell did you get that?"
"Oh killed in the mine field Sir"... well there you are.
I must tell you some of you perhaps were not at Rimini. The Sappers felt very sore over this and felt that one had been put across them. On one occasion the Māoris were occupying a house in an outpost position and as some of you will know the Italians have their pigs and their poultry all in the same dwelling. On one side of the house was a great high brick wall the side facing the enemy with just a few iron bars there and the pigs were on that side of the house. And as you also know the Italians, although in the front line, gathered together and sat in these houses until the battle moved on. Well this Māori platoon was occupying this house and were patrolling outside. They found this pig and thought it was in very desirable condition. But they could see no way of getting it from the place without the Italians knowing because the pig had to come out through where all the Italians were sitting and weeping and so on. However, they carried on with their work. Then one night about 10 o'clock there was a burst of a couple of grenades outside this brick wall and then there were some shots with a tommy gun and there was a great racket going on through the room and out through this brick wall. And then there was a call from inside, from beyond where the Italians were, the brick wall, for the stretcher bearers. Well the stretcher bearers after awhile someone called out got them and in they came. The poor Italians were terribly upset at this, the battle had died down a bit, but there was a bit of groaning inside. And then the stretcher began to emerge and all the Italians stood up and the women were weeping and they all bowed their heads as the stretcher with the blanket neatly covering the body of the pig passed by... (laughter from the audience)
Track fifteen from Ake, Ake Kia Kaha E! Songs of the 28 (Māori) Battalion
Original sound file from Radio New Zealand Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero. Any re-use of this audio is a breach of copyright. To request a copy of the recording, contact Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero.