Māori Battalion diary - February 1943


The Battalion remained on the outskirts of Tripoli for the whole of February. A Divisional parade, Brigade sports and inter-unit rugby games occupied the Battalion’s time in the first half of the month. On the 14th the Battalion’s rugby team won the final of the Freyberg Cup. In the second half of the month each company took turns at the city’s wharf unloading the cargo ships that brought in supplies for the Eighth Army. Leave to Tripoli continued until late February when unruly behaviour saw the CO give the men a stern talking to and as punishment he removed leave temporarily. On the last day of the month selected members of the Battalion broadcast messages home to New Zealand.

At the start of February the Battalion had 31 officers plus the doctor, chaplain, and YMCA driver of Te Rau Aroha canteen truck – the latter three being attached to the unit. 

  • Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel: Charles Bennett (CO)
  • Temporary Majors: Reta Keiha Bn 2ic, Rangi Logan (OC HQ Coy), Ben Porter (OC A Coy).
  • Captains: Peta Awatere (OC C Coy), Mervyn Mitchell (Anti-tank Platoon), Ruhi Pene (2ic B Coy), Chris Sorrenson (OC B Coy), Tutu Wirepa (2ic C Coy).
  • Temporary Captains: Ted Hayward (Carriers Platoon), Jim Matehaere (OC D Coy), Ted Pohio (D Coy), Roy Te Punga (Adjutant).
  • Lieutenants: Jim Aperahama (A Coy), Walton Haig (C Coy), Syd Jackson (C Coy), Harry Lambert (C Coy), Eddie Morgan (B Coy), AE (Duncan) McRae(Transport Platoon), Peter Ornberg (D Coy), Matt Swainson (Quatermaster), Pine Taiapa (C Coy), Wally Wordley (HQ Coy)
  • Second Lieutenants: George Katene (Mortars Platoon), Herbert Marsden (A Coy), George McDonald (Signal Platoon), Moana Ngarimu (C Coy), Kara Rika (A Coy),  Jerry Smith (D Coy),  Dick Stephens (A Coy),  William Vercoe (B Coy)
  • Attached: Capt. Cam D’Arcy (RMO), Capt. Chaplain Tunoa Wanoa (unit padre), Mr Charlie Bennett (YMCA)


  • 1 Feb, Mon as per syllabus, i.e.  0730 hrs reveille 0745-0815 hrs Physical Training (PT). 0900 hrs sick parade. 0930-0945 hrs company inspection. 0945-1115 hrs route march by companies. 1339-1500 hrs inter-platoon sports based on Brigade programme. Weather: fine and sunny, cold evenings.
  • 2 Feb, Tues 0730-0945 hrs as per syllabus. See Training Syllabus for week. The remainder of the day was devoted to a Battalion Drill rehearsal on Battalion parade ground for Divisional parade to be held on Thursday 4th  instead. Marched out to Division this day two candidates for OCTU, 39123 WOII Watene Pahau (MM) of Ruatoria and 39647 Sgt Tom (Mahuika) Waerea of Nuhaka. Weather: fine and sunny.
  • 3 Feb, Wed routine changed to 0745 hrs breakfast. 0830 hrs the Battalion moved out in the order A B C D to Divisional Parade ground, Castel Benito, and carried out a rehearsal with other units of 5 Brigade for the Divisional parade tomorrow. 1330 hrs lunch, back in Battalion lines. The afternoon was devoted to the cleaning of equipment, ie the scrubbing of web and the cleaning of battle dress suits. 1745 hrs muster parade of all ranks of the Battalion was held in C Company area. The CO, Lt-Col Charles Bennett, finalised the sizing and the number of files per company and the other details for tomorrow’s parade. 1200 hrs marched in from Maori Training Depot 2 officers, Capt. Jim Henare, 2/Lt Monty Wikiriwhi from a course in Intelligence, and two ORs. Weather: fine and sunny, with cold evenings.
  • 4 Feb, Thurs The syllabus was again amended to read 0930 hrs the Battalion moved off by transport in the order A, B, C, D to the Divisional parade ground, Castel Benito. 1000 hrs arrived at parade ground, final pep talk by the CO and warned all ranks to the fact that the Prime Minister of England, Mr Winston Churchill, would be taking the salute and to be on their best fettle. 1030-1200 hrs the Division paraded under Lt-Gen Sir Bernard Freyberg (VC) and carried out a full rehearsal less the march pass. 1200-1330 hrs Division fell out for lunch. 1345 hrs Division on parade. 1410 hrs Mr Churchill accompanied by General Sir Alan Brooke CIGS, General Sir Bernard Montgomery GOC 8th Army, Lt-Gen Lees GOC 30 Corps and other high officers arrived on the parade ground. They were presented with a general salute after which the official party inspected the 2 NZ Division including attached troops, ie Royal Scots Greys Regiment, but less the 4 NZ Armoured Brigade, and the 22 NZ Motorised Battalion. All ranks showed remarkable steadiness on parade. After the inspection the PM addressed the troops on behalf of the British Government and peoples and stated the gratitude of the government of the British Empire to the whole of the wonderful achievements of the division to date. He promised struggles and victories ahead and a march into fairer lands where the grim and severe conditions of the desert will be but memories. He wished the Division God speed and God’s assistance in its further conquests. He stated that “you can be sure that as your duty will not fail so your success will be achieved.” The march past by brigades followed the address. At the conclusion of the parade the PM personally met all commanders down to Battalion Commanding officers. The CO 28th (Maori) Battalion was personally congratulated by the PM, by  Lt-Gen Lees, and by many other high officers on the excellent display given by the Maori Battalion on parade. General Sir Harold Alexander, Commander-in-Chief Middle East, was also with the official party. 1600 hrs Battalion embussed for return home. 1700 hrs arrived back in unit lines. Weather:  fine and sunny, cloudy and warm. Battalion carried out the syllabus of training as laid down for Thursday 4th Feb. D Company leave personnel visit Tripoli.
  • 5 Feb, Fri 1910 hrs a YMCA Mobile Cinema Unit visited the Battalion and showed a session which compromised two ‘shorts’, War Pictorial  No 89 and a scenic short on Southern Alps scenery. The main picture was a film Topper. See Routine Order no. 5
  • 6 Feb, Sat as per syllabus. 1330 hrs Battalion “A” Rugby team played the 23 Battalion on the 28 Battalion ground. The final scores were 8-3 in favour 28 Maori Battalion. It was a hard game. Battalion “B” team played the 27 NZ MG Battalion at the stadium in Tripoli and lost by 9-6. The “B” team is thus eliminated from the competition. In the opinion of spectators the Maori Battalion was unlucky to lose this match as was the “A” team considered fortunate in winning against 23 Battalion. See names of both teams.  Weather: blue skies and sunshine.
  • 7 Feb, Sun Battalion Church Parade was cancelled owing to adverse weather conditions and church parades were held by Companies only when possible. Leave personnel this day were from HQ Company and Battalion HQ. Weather: the day opened with a steady shower and there were very heavy showers for the rest of the day, clearing up however towards late afternoon. Strong northwesterly winds.
  • 8 Feb, Mon As per syllabus. Afternoon devoted to sports, based on the Brigade programme. For details of the sports programme. The final results of the inter Company were: D Company 1st (22 points), HQ Company 2nd (16 points), C Company 3rd (14 points), B Company (8 Points), A Company (1 Point). Weather: fair to fine.
  • 9 Feb, Tues As per syllabus. 1500 hrs there was a conference of all officers of 30 Corps held at the Miramire Cinema in Tripoli at which the GOC, Sir Bernard Montgomery, spoke. He divided his lectures into three parts: (a) the enemy, dealing with the various fronts, Russian, European and North African; (b) The Eighth Army, in which he particularly referred to 30 Corps and to the Divisions of which this Corps is composed ie. 7 Armoured Division, 51 H Division, 2 NZ Division and praised them for the great work they had done from El Alamein to Tripoli. About the NZ Division he stated “No one knows better than I what the British Empire owes to NZ” and he expressed the sincere hope that he would like to go to NZ after the war to visit the men of the NZ Division in their own homes; (c) About the future – the GOC stated that now had come the time when it became necessary to have a coordination of a single plan for the British forces in North Africa and that plans were being made for the combining of operations with the 1st British Army in Tunisia and the Free French Forces. He also stated that provided we do not make any mistakes he could see no reason why there should not be an “absolutely first class enemy Dunkirk” in the near future. He then went on and gave us some figures of our aircraft and tank strengths. General Eisenhower has been appointed GOC British Forces in North Africa. Weather: the morning was dull and overcast and heavy rains set in about 1500 hrs and continued throughout the evening. 2/Lt Wi Anaru and 14 ORs marched in from Base.
  • 10 Feb, Wed as per syllabus. The afternoon was dedicated to  Brigade inter-unit sports . See programmeFinal results were 28 Battalion 1st (44 points), Brigade HQ and ADS 2nd (23 points), 21 Battalion 3rd (17 points), 23 Battalion 4th (16 points). The prize for the winners was a free day (to be observed tomorrow) and once again, as at Bardia last December, 28 Battalion won comfortably. Weather: rather inclement  with occasional heavy showers which made it look as though the sports in the afternoon may have had to be postponed but it fortunately cleared up after lunch and the sports carried on as usual. See Routine Order no. 13.
  • 11 Feb, Thurs as a result of the win yesterday the routine for today was amended to read: Reveille 0800 hrs, lunch 1200 hrs, tea 1700 hrs second round of leave to Tripoli commenced today with B Company. All ranks of the Battalion were permitted to go see the rugby match between 28 and 27 Battalions played at the Divisional ground, Castel Benito. Final scores were 28 Battalion 14 vs 27 Battalion 0. As a result of this win the Battalion will now play the NZ Division Signals Rugby team for the Divisional finals on Sunday. 2030 hrs conference of all Coy Commanders. CO discussed working party of 500 all ranks to be supplied by this Battalion for unloading stores and equipment at the docks at Tripoli. Figures required of number of men from Companies were A – 100, B – 95, D – 80, Battalion HQ – 25, HQ Company – 185, C – 15. Weather: showery but cleared up somewhat for the match this afternoon. 5 ORs marched in from Maori Training Depot.
  • 12 Feb, Fri All ranks paid 10/- per man this day. C Company on leave this day. Weather: mainly fine and sunny but showery at times. Heavy rain overnight.
  • 13 Feb, Sat Weather: fine and sunny after heavy rains overnight. HQ Company area was literally flooded out and the normally dry wadi which flows through their area became a fast flowing little creek overnight. One Bren Gun Carrier undergoing repairs in the wadi was completely submerged with only the gun fixed on the mounting showing above water level. Many bivvy tents were washed away.
  • 14 Feb, Sun 0800 hrs Reveille, 0830 hrs Breakfast – Roman Catholics report to Battalion Headquarters.1000 hrs Battalion church parade was conducted by Capt. Chaplain Tunoa Wanoa. At the conclusion of the parade the CO spoke to those present on disciplinary matters. 1345 hrs Battalion moved off on transport to the Divisional Football ground at Castel Benito. 1410 hrs arrived at football ground in time to witness a match between Divisional Ordinance and 6 Field Regiment. The match was drawn 3-3 and was a curtain raiser to the big match ― the Divisional Rugby Championship between the 28 Battalion and Div Sigs. In spite of the adverse weather conditions prevailing, steady rains accompanied by very strong northerly winds, there was a big crowd present including General in Command, Lt-Gen Sir Bernard Freyberg VC, and other senior officers of the Division.
    The big match kicked off punctually at 1435 hrs and both teams were given an ovation on taking the field, the Maori Battalion running favourite by a slight margin before the match. Div. Sigs won the toss and elected to play downwind. The first half was a grim defensive struggle from the Battalion’s point of view as the Sigs team proved themselves a definitely effective combination and made full use of the assistance from a following wind which made line kicking difficult for the defence. The Battalion in the first 20 minutes of play was penalised four times for offside infringements and at the third attempt Signals drew first blood with a penalty goal. The score remained unchanged at half-time. During the half-time interval the Maori Battalion team changed jerseys and wore the 6 Field Regimental colours of back and yellow – the original colours of black and white being very difficult to distinguish from the Div. Sigs colours of blue and white. This change over resulted in a much clearer following of the play from both the spectators and the referees point of view. At the resumption of play greater things were expected from the Maoris, but Div. Sigs proved themselves as capable in defence as in attack. A brilliant breakthrough by Lt Wally Wordley resulted in Pte D. K. (Ses) Aratema scoring for the Maoris. Lt Syd (Bully) Jackson converted with a good kick. Signals then retaliated and carried play back into the Maori Battalion’s 25 where another penalty was given against them. Signals once again took the lead as a result of a good kick which hit the cross bar and fortunately fell over. The score was now 6–5. The Maoris then pressed vigorously but found the Signals defence difficult to penetrate and with only a few minutes play remaining the Maori Battalions hopes of victory seemed at a very low ebb. It was during some loose play in the Signals 25 that Cpl Charlie Taite, the Maori centre three-quarter, secured possession and with a brilliant burst of speed broke through and scored near the corner post. Lt. Jackson missed the kick but the try gave the Maoris the lead by 8 points to 6. A few minutes of play still remained but the score at the final whistle was unchanged. Father Kingham controlled the match rather severely at times so it was thought from the sideline, as some of his decisions against the Maori Battalion, although undoubtedly fully justified, received veryp1 caustic remarks from some of the spectators . This victory was naturally received with much jubilation by the Battalion and in a special memo the CO congratulated the team on the ‘credit and honour which the team had brought to the Battalion and to the Maori people on a whole’. The team had been unbeaten throughout the 1942-43 season. See appendix no. 4 for names of team members and a photo of them.  Weather: rain except for period of play with strong winds.
    Also our RNZ recordings on the website of Taiapa and Jackson speaking after the game.
  • 15 Feb, Mon A and HQ Company provide men for wharf work, D Company proceeding on leave and remainder staying in camp carrying out the normal routine of training. Weather: fine but overcast and rather muggy.
  • 16 Feb, Tues the routine for today was very similar to that of yesterday. See routine. Weather: fine and sunny for the greater part of the day but rather cloudy towards evening.
  • 17 Feb, Wed Once again there was no change in the general Battalion routine. Wharf working party for period 0900 hrs to 1800 hrs was drawn from HQ, D and A Companies and Battalion HQ, Maj. Rangi Logan being in charge. A new shift was introduced this afternoon from 1530 hrs to 2300 hrs for which B Company and HQ Company under Capt. Chris Sorenson supplied the personnel. Those personnel remaining in camp were issued with a separate routine. See Routine Order no. 16. Weather: fine cloudy and overcast but with occasional sunshine.
  • 18 Feb, Thurs routine for today was C and HQ Companies to supply men for wharf work for period 0900-1800 hrs under Maj. Logan. For the night shift A and D Companies provided the men and were under Maj. Ben Porter for period 1500-2300 hrs personnel remaining in camp carried out a separate syllabus of training which included a muster parade of B Company all ranks requiring inoculations TAB or Tetanus Prop. Leave personnel were from HQ Company and Battalion HQ. Weather: fine and sunny and was the first clear day after a spell of very adverse weather conditions.
  • 19 Feb, Fri routine this day was again as for previous days and for period 0730 hrs to 1600 hrs for wharf C and B Companies provided the men for Capt. Peta Awatere being in charge. For period of work from 0900 hrs to 1800 hrs HQ Company supplied the men, Capt. Tutu Wi Repa being in charge. A separate routine for those remaining in camp was issued. An inoculation parade was held at 1315 hrs for Battalion HQ and any personnel of A and D Company requiring inoculations also paraded at that time. HQ Company personnel reported for inoculations at 1345 hrs. There was no leave to Tripoli this day. Pay day 10 shillings per man. 1845 hrs Battalion paraded in rear of C Company area and were given a pep talk by the Commanding Officer on disciplinary matters to the affect that the general behaviour of the Battalion whilst in Tripoli both in the hours of wharf work and leave had not been good. Consequently leave was temporarily cancelled. 1915 hrs the CO called a conference of “O” Group officers and discussed the TEWTS to be held tomorrow. The IO was issued with a new jeep this day. Weather: fine and sunny with strong Southerlies blowing in from the desert.
  • 20 Feb, Sat “O” Group Battalion ie. Commanding Officer, Adjutant, IO, Company Commanders, A/T Commander, Mortar Platoon Commander and “O” Groups from other Battalions and supporting arms of 5 Brigade went out on all-day exercise in the desert area south of Castel Benito–Tarhuna. Also present were the British officers from the Guards Brigade of the Grenadiers and Scots Greys Regiments including their Brigadier and who came out to study NZ Division Desert tactics. The whole exercise was conducted by Brigadier Kippenberger (DSO & Bar) 5 Brigade. In the morning the formation of an A/Tk gun line from a Brigade in desert formation (of 3 Battalions) was carried out. After noon  a problem was submitted to all officers, subject: a Brigade night attack on an enemy position sited on high ground. The solution was worked out in syndicate groups of Battalions each group leader giving the final solution at the conclusion to the Brigadier. The Brigadier in turn submitted the final criticisms on the various solutions and gave his own answer to the problem, this marking the end of the exercise. The Battalion in camp carried out an all-day route march by Companies there was an issue of beer this day,  1/2 litre per man. For particulars of beer issue see appendix No. 5. Weather: fine and sunny but rather close and muggy.
  • 21 Feb, Sun Battalion carried out the routine as laid down in Routine Order No 17. Of 20 Feb 43. Capt. Chaplain Wanoa conducted the Service. Weather: much as yesterday.
  • 22 Feb, Mon the syllabus of training was carried out in accordance with instructions with Routine Orders No.18. HQ Company carried out disinfestations commencing at 0930 hrs. Clocks went back one hour at 2200 hrs this day. Weather: fine and sunny.
  • 23 Feb, Tues A, B and HQ Company for disinfestation according to times laid down and C & D Company and wharf work personnel were drawn from HQ and C Companies. A separate routine was issued for those remaining in camp. Leave to Tripoli was resumed this day on trial. Troops from Battalion HQ, C and D Companies went out on leave. Weather: fine and sunny.
  • 24 Feb, Wed Again the routine was according to that laid down in Routine Orders No. 20 published yesterday See Routine Order no. 20 and it contained orders about disinfestation for D, Battalion HQ and C Companies. Battalion parade at 0845 hrs and all day route march by A, B and HQ Companies, C Company and Battalion HQ marching according to hours laid down. D Company played a football match with Brigade HQ this afternoon and won by 5–3. HQ Company (remnants) on leave.  Weather: beautiful blue skies and sunshine. Very hot, being most uncomfortable on the march.
  • 25 Feb, Thurs Continuing the practice of late – necessitated by the uncertainty of present conditions – of publishing orders daily, a syllabus of training for this day was published in Routine Orders No.21 See Routine Order no. 215 Brigade Brass Band entertained those of this Battalion in camp to a concert which was held in HQ Company area. It was much appreciated by the troops present. 1900 hrs 30 members of the Battalion went to Castel Benito and attended an Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) “Hello Happiness” concert programme. An excellent show. Weather: again very warm and sunny.
  • 26 Feb, Fri routine for this day was carried out in accordance with instructions laid down in Routine Order 22 See Routine Order no. 22.  Pay day. Pay for ORs was increased from the normal 10 shillings weekly to £1. The football programme was postponed and will run off tomorrow. In lieu thereof the 28 Maori Battalion team “A” played a return match with 23 Battalion “A” team. The Maori Battalion won 10–3. Weather: fine and sunny.
  • 27 Feb, Sat The routine this day was as in accordance with routine laid down in Routine Order No. 23The afternoon was devoted to inter-Company football. Battalion HQ played a C Company “B” team and won easily by 12–0. No.3 (Mortar) platoon lost to C Company “C” team by 8–3. A Company “A” lost to D Company “A” team by 10–3. A Company “B” team beat D Company “B” team by 3–0 . Leave this day was as per paragraph 3 of Routine order 23 i.e. Only RCs permitted to go. The Battalion had an early tea this evening on account of an impromptu Concert Programme. C Company (Ngati Porou) entertained Battalion HQ to dinner this evening. Capt. Peta Awatere, Officer in Command of C Company, officially welcomed the “guests” with a typical Maori speech of welcome to which the CO, Lt-Col Bennett, replied stating that it was a good thing that the Companies should be brought together thus and exchange mutual affairs generally. 1715 hrs the Battalion gathered in C Company amphitheatre area and entertained itself with an impromptu concert. All Companies contributed to it by rendering each a few numbers. The Brigadier, SC and Brigade Major (BM) were present. It was quite a good show, the programme lasting for approximately one and a half hours and culminating in a very spirited haka by C Company. See concert programme. Weather: fine and sunny with strong northwesterly winds.
  • 28 Feb, Sun See Routine Order no. 240715 hrs Reveille, 0730 hrs breakfast. 0845 hrs Battalion Parade less RCs. 0930 hrs Battalion moved off to Brigade Church Parade Ground. All units of the Brigade were formed up in hollow square formation by 1000 hrs. The Brigade Brass Band was also in attendance. 1010 hrs The GOC Lt-Gen Freyberg and a few of his senior staff officers arrived. The service was conducted by the Chaplains of 21, 23 and 28 Battalions. At the conclusion of the parade the Brigade marched past in column of route in the order Brigade HQ Gp, 21, 23 and 28 Battalions. The GOC took the salute. The afternoon was devoted to interior economy with the exception of those personnel selected from Companies to broadcast home to New Zealand. See list of these personnelLeave personnel were from A Company. Weather: fine and sunny.


Archives New Zealand = Te Rua Mahara a te Kāwanatanga
28 (Maori) Battalion War Diary, WAII 1 1666 DA 68/1/37

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