28th Māori Battalion National Association

“an asset discovered in the crucible of war should have a value in the coming peace”

This articles is an extract from stories researched and written by Dr Monty Soutar for the National Association’s Final Offical Luncheon booklet.

When the Association was established in February 1960 the first roll call included 16 Branches and there were more than 70 members in attendance. Returned servicemen who served overseas with the 28th Māori Battalion were automatically members of the National Association.

The 28th Māori Battalion Association has its genesis in Anzac Day 1958. It was after the Dawn Service during a breakfast provided for the veterans at the Community Centre in Fanshawe Street, Auckland that the formation of a battalion association was first suggested.

Later that year a meeting was convened at the same venue by Monty Wikiriwhi of Te Arawa, who was the welfare officer in Pukekohe. For an hour before the meeting the 40 former members of the unit listened while the Reverend Rangi Rogers reminded them of their duty and responsibility to their comrades who were not with them on that day. This, and the thought that as members of a unique military unit they were entrusted with the job of preserving the identity of the Māori people, remained with them throughout the afternoon.

Sir Apirana Ngata’s immortal words, “an asset discovered in the crucible of war should have a value in the coming peace,” were recaptured by the veterans. In this way firm and lasting foundations were laid for an organisation dedicated to holding the ground in the New World which the battalion won for the people on the battlefields of the Old World. Every man was conscious of what he could do to build for the future by guiding and assisting the young generation which was launching forth into an even newer world.

An inaugural committee was elected with Capt Wikiriwhi as President and the first Patron was Brigadier George Dittmer the first Commanding Officer of the 28th Māori Battalion. Reverend Māori Marsden was the honorary padre.

Nearly two years after the idea was first mooted, the Battalion held its first official meeting in February 1960. Fifty-four years and 30 National Reunions later, the last official luncheon took place at Pipitea Marae.