Māori Battalion diary - June 1943


With the Māori Battalion back at Maadi Camp in Egypt, the month of June was spent resting and cleaning up after the long and arduous North African Campaign. News reached the unit of the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross to 2/Lt Moana Ngarimu and 184 men from the Battalion, balloted for the Ruapehu Scheme, embarked for New Zealand on three months’ furlough.  The Ninth Reinforcements had arrived (14 May) and 16 of the Battalion’s experienced ORs were dispatched to the Māori Training Depot at Puttick Camp to instruct them. There was lots of leave to Cairo and other locations.  Lt-Col Reta Keiha went on a fortnight’s leave and Major Russell Young became acting CO. He had just been appointed Battalion 2IC.

At the beginning of May the Battalion had only 23 officers plus the doctor and YMCA driver of Te Rau Aroha canteen truck – the latter two being attached to the unit.  Numbers were down because of the recent casualties during the battles fought in Tunisia.

  • Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel: Reta Keiha (CO)
  • Captains: Peta Awatere (Bn 2 i/c), Jim Matehaere (OC, D Coy), Mervyn Mitchell (OC, HQ Coy), Ruhi Pene (OC, B Coy), Tutu Wirepa (OC, C Coy),
  • Temporary Captains: Ted Hayward, Peter Ornberg
  • Lieutenants: Walton Haig, Syd Jackson, Harry Lambert, Herbert Marsden, Ted Morgan, A. E. (Duncan) McRae, Ted Pohio, Matt Swainson, Monty Wikiriwhi (Adjutant)
  • Second Lieutenants: Richie Davis, Les Hall, George Katene, George McDonald, Jerry Smith, John (H.M.) Tawhai
  • Attached: Capt. Cam D’Arcy (RMO), Mr Charlie Bennett (YMCA)


  • 1 June, Tues reveille 0600 hrs. Breakfast 0700 hrs. 0830 hrs Battalion muster parade was held in the Battalion area forward of HQ Coy and to the right of “A” Coy. Lt-Col Reta Keiha gave a general talk on the routine discipline and the arrangements made by the Higher Command so that a portion of the men could be got away on 14 days’ leave shortly, and for the present and near future the balance of the Battalion were to rest in this area as much as possible. He also announced the names of the men from this Battalion who were fortunate enough to draw marbles for places to proceed back home on three months’ leave. This draw was confined to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd echelons only. 0930 hrs to 1100 hrs during this period Coy Commanders carried out a kit inspection in order that personnel leaving for home may be outfitted as early as possible. 1200 hrs lunch. 1300 hrs to 1700 hrs a very large parcel and paper mail arrived at Battalion and was distributed to the men during this period. 1715 hrs tea. Weather: fine and warm. Yesterday history was made as this is the first occasion since they had been overseas that the Battalion, as a Battalion, has ever set foot in Maadi to stay.
  • 2 June, Wed Routine as per RO No 11. 0900 hrs memorial service on Brigade Parade ground (area in front of officers’ quarters). Padre Holland from 23 Battalion delivered an inspiring service and the text of his sermon in a few words was, remembrance, rejoice and rededication. After the service the Roman Catholics joined the parade after which the Brigadier delivered a short talk on the conditions covering the men who will be going home on three months’ leave. This scheme is known as “Ruapehu.” 1300 hrs daily leave was started today. Provision was made for 3-tonners to convey 15% of Battalion personnel to Cairo. Leave is being granted from 1330 hrs to 0130 hrs daily. Weather: warm and dry but a fairly strong northerly made the conditions rather dusty.
  • 3 June, Thurs routine as per RO No 12. 0930 hrs OCTU candidates paraded at the Brigade HQ for an interview with the Brigadier. 1330 hrs to 0130 hrs 15% of unit’s strength on local leave. The QM stores began to equip with clothing only the “Ruapehu” detachment.  Lt Reg Mariu marched in from 5 Brigade. Weather: Fine.
  • 4 June, Fri routine as per RO No 13. 1000 hrs, pay at the rate of one pound per man was made available and hot showers in Sixth Brigade area were open to personnel from 28 Battalion all day. Personnel marching off on 14 days’ leave were paid off this afternoon. Today was a memorable one for the Māori Battalion, 2/Lt Moana Ngarimu who was killed during the attack on the Tebaga Gap, South of El Hamma, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. See full citation as it appeared in the Egyptian Mail. Weather: a strong northerly marred an otherwise fine and dry day.
  • 5 June, Sat routine as per RO No 14. 0600 hrs leave personnel for Sidi Bishr together with haversack lunches paraded at Battalion HQ for inspection leave passes and final instructions and then were conveyed to the Cairo main station. 0645 hrs leave personnel for Alexandria paraded at Battalion HQ after which they were conveyed also to the main station Cairo. 1000 hrs all binoculars, revolvers and compasses on issue to personnel from this Battalion were recalled by the (RQM) for the purposes of checking at ordnance stores. 0900 hrs Leave personnel for Cairo on 14 days’ leave paraded at Battalion HQ and were conveyed to town. Leave personnel for Nathaniya leave camp paraded at Battalion HQ with WO11 Morgan Wells as ic party and were conveyed to the Cairo main station. Total personnel on leave today (14 days) numbered 238 all ranks. Weather: dry with a strong NW blowing.
  • 6 June, Sun routine as per RO No 15. This routine order also includes congratulatory messages from the GOC Second NZ Division and Fifth Infantry Brigade re the Victoria Cross award. 0830 hrs Brigade church parade, Padre Holland 23 Battalion officiated. Weather: fine.
  • 7 June, Mon routine for today: reveille 0630 hrs, breakfast 0715 hrs. The Battalion is still resting. 0730 hrs a working party of six men reported to the railway station to unload goods for the camp. 1000 hrs beer issue of one and a third bottles per man costing 4 Pt per bottle was made available by the 2 i/c. An order arrived from Brigade this morning for the Battalion to collect enemy weapons and hand them into ordnance. Officers possessing registered Lugers handed them in and were issued with regulation Army Pistols. Lunch 1200 hrs. 1330 hrs to 0130 hrs local leave. 1700 hrs tea. All personnel under “Ruapehu” scheme were vaccinated today. Weather: dry and hot.
  • 8 June, Tues routine as per RO No 16. 0800 hrs a company drawn from all companies and a hundred strong under command Capt. A. Awatere (MC) began rehearsing for a parade to be held in Cairo on 14 June. A total of 106 all ranks marched out onto the NZ Roll (Ruapehu Scheme). Although they were marched out they remained with Battalion for R and Q. Local leave as usual.
  • 9 June, Wed routine as per RO No 17. Battalion is enjoying the rest. 1200 hrs lunch. 1530 hrs a party of six left on a 3-tonner with personnel from Brigade to attend an invitation from the Jewish Welfare Committee to a display by the Cairo Police on their training grounds at Abbassia. Weather: dry and dusty.
  • 10 June, Thurs routine as per RO No 18. i.e. Reveille 0600 hrs. Breakfast 0700 hrs.Lunch 1200 hrs.Tea 1800 hrs.Nothing to report. Weather: fine.
  • 11 June, Fri routine as per RO No 19. 1000 hrs pay at the usual rate of one pound per man was made available. Maj. Chris Sorenson who was evacuated during the Battle of Takrouna marched in and took over command of B Coy again. Weather: hot and dry.
  • 12 June, Sat routine for today as per RO No 20. 0700 hrs 30 ORs and one officer arrived at Battalion HQ from Maori Training Coy, Puttick Camp, to rehearse under Capt. Awatere for the march through Cairo on All Nations Day. 1000 hrs the party returns to Puttick Camp. 1330 hrs to 0130 hrs Daily local leave. 1345 hrs two 3-tonners conveyed a party from Battalion to Puttick Camp (Mena) to meet relatives and friends who had arrived last night with the Ninth Reinforcements from NZ. They returned at 1640 hrs. The unit’s strength, excluding officers, was 471 ORs, five of who were attached from NZEME. 275 ORs were required to bring the unit to full strength. The total number of officers was 20 (two of whom were attached). Weather:  fine.
  • 13 June, Sun routine as per RO No 21. Reveille 0600 hrs. Breakfast 0700 hrs. 0800 hrs Battalion parade and Battalion marker reports to Brigade RSM. 0825 hrs the Battalion marches onto Brigade parade ground forming the base of a square for Brigade Church Parade which was commenced at 0830 hrs. Bishop G.V. Gerard officiated, this being the first occasion we have heard him since he was repatriated. 1600 hrs detachment from Maori Training Coy that was here yesterday arrived at Battalion to stay the night so they could get away early with the rest of Capt. Awatere’s party to the parade in Cairo tomorrow morning. Tea 1730 hrs. Weather: dry and hot.
  • 14 June, Mon routine as for yesterday for the remainder of the Battalion while Capt. Awatere’s special guard had reveille at 0500 hrs, breakfast at 0530 hrs and had left the Battalion area by 0615 hrs. 1000 hrs cigarette issue was made available at the rate of 50 cigarettes and two boxes of matches per man. 1100 hrs Capt. Awatere’s party returns after taking part in All Nations Day parade through Cairo. Lt-Col Keiha was CO of the representatives from 5 Brigade. Lunch 1200 hrs. 1500 hrs Maori Training Party returns to Puttick Camp. Tea 1700 hrs. Weather: fine. Early this morning an advance party consisting of one officer (Lt Ted Morgan) and nine ORs from “Ruapehu” left for their port of embarkation.
  • 15 June, Tues 0500 hrs the “Ruapehu” detachment, which included five officers, left in ten 3-tonners for port of embarkation. See Nominal Roll of Ruapehu Draft for list of personnel. Routine for Battalion as per RO No 23. 0900 hrs the following weapons were loaned out to Maori Training Coy, Puttick Camp, to be used in the training of the reinforcements: 18 Tommy guns, nine LMGs (Brens), three 2-inch Mortars; one Spandau, two flare pistols, and magazines. Weather: fine.
  • 16 June, Wed routine as per RO No 23. Fatigue parties tidied up the area vacated by “Ruapehu” personnel. Otherwise there is nothing to report as the Battalion is taking things easy. Weather: fine.
  • 17 June, Thurs routine as per RO No 24. 0900 hrs all blankets in excess of two were collected and returned to QM stores. Weather: fine.
  • 18 June, Fri routine as per RO No 25. 0830 hrs a Battalion muster parade was held on the Battalion parade ground for identification purposes. 0900 hrs a court of enquiry was held in the Sergeants’ Mess and members of the court were: president - Maj. Sorrenson, members - Capt. Awatere and 2/Lt George Katene. Purpose of court listed set out in RO No 25. 1300 hrs pay was made available to all ranks including personnel going out on 14 days’ leave tomorrow. 1600 hrs beer at the rate of one bottle per man was made available. Price 4 Pt per bottle. Weather: hot and dusty.
  • 19 June, Sat Routine as per RO No 26. A batch of men left for Alexandria at 0600 hrs on 14 days’ leave. Another batch left for Sidi-Bishr at 0700 hrs while the last batch left at 0830 hrs for Cairo, all on 14 days’ leave. 0900 hrs Battalion 2 i/c’s orderly room. 1000 hrs CO’s orderly room. 1800 hrs leave personnel for Nathanyia (Palestine) left Battalion HQ in trucks for the railway station, Cairo. By 2200 hrs all personnel who went out on 5 June had reported back to Battalion. Weather: fine and warm.
  • 20 June, Sun routine as per RO No 27. Lt. Col Keiha marched out on14 days’ leave and Maj. Russell Young who had marched in to the Battalion yesterday as Battalion 2 i/c took over command of Battalion for that period. 0945 hrs Maj. Young called a conference of Coy Commanders at Battalion HQ. 1000 hrs issue of patriotic parcels to personnel who have just returned from leave. 1015 hrs issue of maps covering Cairo, Helwan and Maadi Training centre areas was received from 5 Brigade. 1215 hrs lunch (hot). 1330 hrs daily leave personnel went out. Weather: very warm. Delete all references to paragraph 3, RO No 27.
  • 21 June, Mon 0615 reveille. 0630 hrs RAP. 0700 hrs breakfast.0900 hrs movement order for personnel from Battalion to Puttick Camp as Cadre for the Maori Training Depot to instruct men of the Ninth Reinforcements. See list of personnel. Leanne, this follows on from the Ruapehu Nominal Roll towards the end of the appendix. 1215 hrs lunch. 1730 hrs tea. Weather: fine. Capt. Jack Reedy, 2/Lt Harry Mackey and 2/Lt John Lawson marched in from the Maori Training Depot, Puttick Camp. Capt. Reedy took over the duties of Adjutant, while Capt. M. Wikiriwhi is on 14 days’ leave. 2/Lt. Mackey was posted to C Coy and 2/Lt Lawson went to B Coy.
  • 22 June, Tues routine as per RO No 28. 0945 hrs 2 i/c Acting/CO, Maj. Young, makes an inspection of Battalion lines. Nothing further to report. Weather: fine and hot.
  • 23 June, Wed routine as per RO No 29 1000 hrs old blankets returned to QM and clean ones issued. 1630 hrs beer issue of one and  third bottles per man. Weather: very warm but fine.
  • 24 June, Thurs routine as per RO No 30. Piquets comprising 13 ORs, one Sergeant, under 2/Lt George McDonald, left for patrol duties in Cairo. Weather: warm and dry.
  • 25 June, Fri routine as per RO No 31. 0925 hrs Battalion parade. Maj. Young lectured the men on general behaviour while on leave. 1000 hrs pay at the rate of one pound per man (Egyptian) was made available. 1330 hrs daily leave. 1800 hrs piquets under 2/Lt Mackey leave for Cairo. Weather: fine and dry.
  • 26 June, Sat routine as per RO No 32. 0900 hrs CO’s orderly room. 1215 hrs hot lunch. 1500 hrs issue of sports gear from FFI. 1800 hrs piquets under 2/Lt Lawson leave for Cairo. The unit’s strength, excluding officers, was 459 ORs, five of who were attached from NZEME. 287 ORs were required to bring the unit to full strength. The total number of officers was 24 (two of whom were attached). Weather: fine and sunny.
  • 27 June, Sun routine as per RO No 33 which includes today’s Church services and a list of men for Honours and Awards. 0900 hrs 120 men from the Battalion (40 from HQ Coy and 20 from each rifle Coy and eight from Battalion HQ) leave on an excursion in 3-tonners for the Delta Barrage. 1800 hrs the usual piquets but this time under Capt. Reedy leave for Cairo. 1830 hrs excursion party returns and reported a very enjoyable day.
  • 28 June, Mon 0630 hrs reveille. 0730 hrs breakfast. 1000 hrs CO’s orderly room. 1200 hrs lunch. 1800 hrs tea. 1800 hrs piquets under 2/Lt McDonald leave for Cairo. 1200 hrs piquets returned. Weather: hot and still.
  • 29 June, Tues routine as per RO No 34. 1100 hrs Bren Carrier personnel, who were detached from the Battalion on 13 May  with their carriers south of Takrouna, reported back to Battalion. Their carriers were left in Tripoli. 1800 hrs piquet as usual leave for Cairo under 2/Lt. H. Lawson. Weather: very hot.
  • 30 June, Wed routine as per RO No 35. 0900 hrs all tables were collected and returned to QM stores. 1800 hrs piquet leaves for Cairo with 2/Lt Mackey in charge. Weather: fine and hot. Rations: fresh, supplemented by purchases through Regiment Funds, of carrots, onions, tomatoes and ice-cream.

Weather for the month: as detailed daily, but we were troubled by the very consistent Northerly wind during the first week or ten days we spent in Maadi which made the conditions rather dusty and uncomfortable.


Archives New Zealand = Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanantanga
28 (Maori) Battalion War Diary, WAII 1 1666 DA 68/1/42

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