Sir Charles Bennett, Commanding Officer of the 28th Māori Battalion emphasises the importance of the tribal and whānau composition of the Māori Batttalion Companies and how these familial ties contributed to the Battalion's considerable achievements.
It was a very wise decision on the part of those who decided on this formation because it proved itself in war. These Companies were more or less family groups, whānau groups, so that every NCO belonged to the tribe and where possible the Officer himself was a member of the tribe. So that, both when they were out of war and when they went into war they fought as a group. Each one more or less very conscious of the fact that the chap next to him is a relation of his, a cousin or a brother or something like that. So that, I think they tenaciously fought to protect each other. There were many cases where chaps who were back in base, for instance when we were in Egypt, when we were in the desert, fella’s were supposed to be back in Egypt, in Cairo, in Maadi in base, you know because their brother or cousin was way up in the desert a thousand miles away about to go into battle. These chaps would find transport and get up to the Battalion, leave their safe head quarters and re-join their Company because their relations were there in battle and they wanted to be alongside them. I think that kind of tribal setup… whānau composition of the Companies and platoons of the Battalion had a lot to do with its achievement.
Sound file - Extracts from Interview with Sir Charles Bennett, interviewer Jim Sullivan, recorded 31 March and 1 April 1993, commissioned by the Ministry of External Relations.
From the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library Oral History Centre, OHColl-0217-1. All rights reserved. Permission of the Library and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade must be obtained before any re-use of this sound file.
Detail of Officers at Katerini
Alexander Turnbull Library
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.