The last remaining survivors of the 28th Maori Battalion have gathered together for the final time; Stuff reports:
Once a mighty fighting force, the 28th Maori Battalion has dwindled to a small group of veterans.
Today a dozen of the remaining 25 men who saw such fearsome combat across North Africa and Europe gathered in Wellington to mark the end of their official association.
"It feels sad it's come to a close, but it had to at some time," 28th Maori Battalion Association president Nolan Raihania said after a military service at the National War Memorial in Wellington.
Among those at the commemoration were the Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae, Defence Force head Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones, Attorney-General Chris Finlayson, Labour Maori Affairs spokesperson Parekura Horomia, and Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown.
As a blustery, chill northerly gained in strength, some of the remaining members of the battalion placed wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior on behalf of the battalion's A, B, C and D companies.
Their faces clouded over as they recalled their fallen comrades.
"It's the sadness of remembering those of us who didn't return, and also those who were lucky enough to come back but are not with us today," Raihania said.
At the same time there was an immense pride in what the battalion achieved.
"It was known as our number one fighting unit - hand to hand fighting," he said.
"We have had that reputation all along. We were recognised for that by our own troops and by the enemy, so much so that we have been invited by the Germans ... to their reunions."
During his address to the service, Raihania welcomed representatives from countries the battalion had been associated with.
"We have a representative from India. The Maori Battalion didn't quite get there but we fought alongside soldiers from India in Italy," he said.
"Italy, personally that's where I arrived to join the battalion. There's many happy memories, and other memories, of our sojourn there."
Raihania broke into Italian briefly: "buongiorno, buongiorno," he said.
"Australia, of course ... We're brothers. We fought together for a while."
Rear Admiral (ret) David Ledson told the service the Maori Battalion was the most decorated battalion of the war.
"The battalion earned an enviable reputation as a formidable fighting force," he said.
The story of the Maori Battalion is a wonderful chapter in New Zealand's military history. They were indeed a formidable fighting force, but they also suffered significant losses due to the close-quarters nature of their deployment.
Our father was a WWII veteran and knew a number of men from the Maori Battalion. He could not have spoken more highly of them.
The video below covers the Battalion's return to New Zealand. Though it is terribly dated, it includes the singing of the famed Maori Battalion Marching Song in Te Reo Maori. It is well worth a few moments of your time:
We salute the brave men of the 28th Maori Battalion, along with all those who have served New Zealand in war-time. In the closing words of the song
Ake! Ake! Kia kaha e!