Paratene Kohere describes the counter-attack in Greece

Lance Corporal Paratene Kohere writes home to his parents and describes his toughest experience in Greece.

"Our platoon, in charge of Lieutenant Arnold Reedy, had gone on patrol to Scotina and we were supposed to rejoin the battalion at 9.30 that evening, but owing to miscalculation our platoon did not leave Scotina until 9 o'clock. We came across another platoon, who advised us to hurry back or we would be cut off by the Germans. We had gone up a steep hill only a quarter of a mile when darkness set in. What made it worse was that it began to rain heavily. Our way lay through a bush with dense undergrowth. The track was narrow, and zigzagged up the hill. It became so dark that we lost our way and could not see a yard ahead of us. But for the booming of our guns some distance away we would not have had the least idea where we were going to. The booming gave us our direction. Two of our most powerful men, Percy Goldsmith and Eitini Gage, hacked our way through with their bayonets, and now and then tore with their hands branches that barred our way. (Both Goldsmith and Gage were killed.) Occasionally we took brief spells and awaited the booming of the guns. We kept calling out all the time, lest some of us would wander off in the pitch darkness. The track seemed endless. All the time men were slipping, sliding down a bank, and stumbling all the way. Fortunately we travelled light. One man carried an anti-tank rifle.

"At last to our great relief we reached the top of the hill, but this was not the end of our troubles. We pushed on down the hill and arrived at the battalion headquarters at 2.30- five and a half hours of terrible work. However, we found the battalion gone in the general withdrawal and left us to our fate. We had a long walk down to the road towards Olympus Pass, and pushed on the best way we could. We were becoming awfully worn out, and to lighten our swags we threw away our blankets. The booming of the guns was our sure guide. Here the road became so slippery that we actually dragged ourselves through the mud, and it kept raining all the time. I had a touch of the 'flu, and this increased my troubles. I must say that I was so fatigued that I actually slept on my feet. A bump against a tree or a fall brought me to my senses. We were only too glad to rest in the mud when the order was given to rest.

"We slept soundly; the only one awake was our officer, Lieutenant Arnold Reedy. To keep awake he marched up and down. When the order was given to move on we were so done up that some of us could not awaken and were left behind. We had another sleep in the mud. We came to some men guarding the road. It was a welcome sight and we felt safe. The officer asked us if we had seen the Maori Battalion. Our platoon had actually passed it. Suddenly we heard the tramping of a large number of men, and, to be on the safe side, we rushed up the side of the hill. The engineers were ready to smash up the road but for the absence of the Maori Battalion. We found trucks waiting for us; we jumped in and dropped off to sleep, forgetting the world and its horrors. When we arrived at the rendezvous the men there gave rousing cheers, for the news had come through that the battalion had been cut off. I believe it was owing to superb leadership the battalion escaped by taking a detour."


Reweti T. Kohere, The Story of a Maori Chief, Reed Publishing, Wellington, 1949, pp. 81-82.

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