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While on exercise recently, soldiers from New Zealand Army's 2nd/1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, performed a haka to their British Army‬ counterparts from Royal Gurkha Rifles. RGR replied in turn with their traditional Kukri Dance.

Now, I think pretty much everyone around the world has seen the New Zealand All Blacks perform their famous haka before the start of a Rugby Union Match. 

I have never seen a team respond with an equal show of ferocity. Until now. 

As Steve Irwin might have said " Crikey! " If the Gurkhas ever decided to start playing footy, the Kiwis might finally have a game on their hands. 

Anyway, it got me thinking about the Maori Batallion. 

 

Before I go any further I would like to show you what a haka is. And how it became part of Rugby theatre. 

The haka was first performed by a New Zealand rugby team during the 1888-89 tour of the British Isles by the New Zealand Native ( Maori and Native-born) football team. This team was the first to tour internationally and included several Maori players. It became more firmly established in Rugby Union with the 1905-06 New Zealand national team, known as the "Original All Blacks."

They performed the haka before their matches during their tour of the British Isles, France, and North America. Over time, performing the haka became a formal pre-match ritual for the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national Rugby Union team. It is performed before international matches and is a symbol of New Zealand's cultural heritage and rugby prowess. The most commonly performed haka by the All Blacks is "Ka Mate," which was composed by the Maori chief Te Rauparaha in the early 19th century.

 

 

Anyway, back to the article...... The 28th (Maori) Battalion, often simply referred to as the Maori Battalion, is one of the most celebrated units in New Zealand's military history. It was formed in 1940 as part of New Zealand's contribution to the Allied war effort during World War II.

It was a response to the call for Maori soldiers to serve in a distinct unit. What made it particularly unique was that the members were all related in some way: brothers, cousins, fathers and sons.... the camaraderie existed from the very beginning.  Nearly 16,000 Māori enlisted for service during the Second World War. By 1945, 28th (Maori) Battalion had became one of New Zealand's most celebrated and decorated units. 

Maori Battalion haka in Egypt, 1941

Telegrams from Māori leaders offering men for both home defence and overseas service reached Parliament soon after war was announced in September 1939. Māori requests for their own military unit followed. 

One group proposed naming the battalion ‘Treaty of Waitangi’ to draw the attention of both Māori and Pākehā to their respective obligations under the Treaty. The Treaty focus was in line with the stance that many people took during the First World War. Article Three imparted the rights of British citizenship to Māori. In accepting those rights, Māori agreed that the Treaty imposed on them certain obligations and duties.

As British subjects Māori should serve in the defence of the Empire. ‘British sovereignty was accepted by our forefathers,’ explained Sir Apirana Ngata, ‘and it has given the Māori people rights which they would not have been accorded under any conqueror.’

We are participants in a great Commonwealth, to the defence of which we cannot hesitate to contribute our blood and our lives. We are the possessors of rights which we must qualify to exercise, also of obligations which the Māori must discharge always in the future as he has done in the past.

Moreover, if Māori were to have a say in shaping the future of the nation after the war they needed to participate fully during it. Ngata summed the situation up:

We are of one house, and if our Pākehā brothers fall, we fall with them. How can we ever hold up our heads, when the struggle is over, to the question, ‘Where were you when New Zealand was at war?’

The government agreed. 28 (Maori) Battalion was formed on racial lines and organised on a tribal basis. The Official history of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–1945 described its formation as follows:

The battalion was to be organised on a tribal basis, and to this end men from North Auckland (the Ngāpuhi and subtribes) were marched into A Company lines; B Company received the men from Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, Taupo, and the Thames–Coromandel areas, mostly from the Arawa confederation and Tuhoe tribes; C Company comprised the tribes of the East Coast from south of Gisborne to the East Cape, Ngātiporou, Rongowhakaata, and sub-tribes; D Company, unlike the others, which were from compact areas with a closely-knit tribal organisation, extended from the Waikato–Maniapoto confederation area south of Auckland and included the Taranaki tribes, the Ngāti Kahungunu of Hawke's Bay–Wairarapa, the Wellington Province, the whole of the South Island, the Chathams and Stewart Island, and odd men from the Pacific Islands.

 

mispronunciation is pretty dreadful, but the video is worth watching. Monty

The Maori Battalion saw significant action in the North African Campaign, particularly in battles such as Operation Crusader, the Battle of Gazala, and the Battle of El Alamein. Their bravery and effectiveness in desert warfare earned them a formidable reputation.: After North Africa, the battalion participated in the Italian Campaign, where they were involved in major battles, including the Battle of Monte Cassino, the advance through the Liri Valley, and the final push into northern Italy. The Maori Battalion played a crucial role in these campaigns, often leading the charge in difficult and dangerous assaults. 

 

The battalion earned a reputation for extraordinary bravery and combat effectiveness. Members of the Maori Battalion received numerous awards for gallantry, including several Distinguished Service Orders, Military Crosses, and Military Medals. One of the most notable figures was Second Lieutenant Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu, who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroism at Tebaga Gap, Tunisia. 

After the war, the process of demobilizing troops began. This involved returning soldiers to civilian life, disbanding temporary wartime units, and reducing the size of the military to peacetime levels. The 28th (Maori) Battalion, being a wartime unit, was part of this process. In the post-war period, New Zealand, like many other countries, restructured its military forces to focus on peacetime roles and responsibilities. This restructuring did not include maintaining the Maori Battalion as a distinct entity within the peacetime army.

Some years ago, a short film was made. 

 

I urge you to watch this one, It is definitely worth the 16 minutes. 

To me, the disbandment of the Maori Batallion was a terrible mistake. The Maori people are tribal. Imagine if the battalion had been maintained? 

I suppose all I can think of is that I would prefer the Maori Batallion to the bikie gangs and terror squads we see today. 

Tomorrow, I will tell you all about the Gurkhas and their knives. 

As I said at the beginning, a face off on the footy field between the Maori Batallion and the Gurkhas would be one hell of a match. 

If nothing else, it would be better than a showdown between Robert Irwin and Bluey against Pauline Hanson. 

How petty people have become. 

 

 

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