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The close of the 28th Māori Battalion Association 1st December 2012

This was a bitter sweet occasion – The Association was formed soon after the end of WW11 and has been a focal point of fellowship and support for veterans of the Battalion, their wives,

families, and descendants ever since. To witness the end of the Association was sad indeed.  Not all was gloom and despair – it was wonderful to meet old friends from throughout Aotearoa whom I’d not met since the last reunion, to talk, to socialise, to eat together and sing the Battalion’s waiata, himene and marching song.  There was even a stirring rendering of Buona notte mi amore in memory of the Italian campaign.

 

One section of those present at the war memorial ceremony.

 

 

The veterans.

The ceremony at the War Memorial, Buckle Street, Wellington was a formal and impressive event.  It was great to see so many veterans present and all wearing their medals.  In many ways it was much like an extended ANZAC Day parade but with a distinctly Māori emphasis – laying of wreaths, The Reveille, The Last Post, The National Anthem and Binyon’s lines in both languages, but also God Save The Queen.

The banner is being marched on.

We then moved to Pipitea Marae in Thorndon for the wero challenge for The Governor General, Jerry Mateparae, followed by our welcome on to the Marae.  Lunch had a distinctly Pākehā flavour, nothing like the marae hākari I remember of old.  How times change!  Representatives of each Coy performed their own haka.  There were addresses by Monty Soutar, Wira Gardiner and the Governor General.  The latter pointed out that it is better for the Association to close now when it is strong and many of the veterans are alive to participate in the ceremony than to wait to the bitter end, “ To go in strength and pride rather than fade sadly away”   Maybe he had a point.

 

 

Wreaths were laid by representatives of A B C and D Companies.

As you will know, JF Cody’s Official War History of the 28th Māori Battalion has been out of print for many years and copies are as scarce as hen’s teeth.  I was delighted when it was announced that this book has been re-published and will be in bookshops before Christmas 2012.  Each veteran was presented with their own personal copy.

 

Pipitea Marae. Waiting to welcome the manuwhiri

 

The most moving part was the march off of the Battalion Banner in complete silence except for the lone piper’s lament.

 

 

Wero challenge to Gerry Mateparae, the Governor-General.

Gerry Mateparae, the governor General, and veterans wait to be called on to the marae.

 

Although The Māori Battalion Association is no more the regional branches are likely to continue to function.

 

 

 

By Brenda JOYCE.