Bringing back the past – The Maori Battalion

English: Maori Battalion survivors of action i...

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On the post about Argentina, some commenter got all upset because I called the Argies a bunch of pussies and then he slagged off our Maori and said we could hardly contain them so we could talk.

I made the comment back, somewhat flippantly, that the uppity Maori we have:

…used to be called the Maori Battalion and they and they went through the best the dagos, wops, and various wog countries could throw at them like there was nothing there. Even the Desert Fox, Erwin Rommel, couldn’t make a dent in the Maori Battalion.

Maori also invented trench warfare and know a thing or two about dispatching the enemy, perhaps we might like to reconstitute them and run them through the Argies.

It got me thinking…perhaps this has a great deal more merit than a throw away comment on a blog. A quick look at their proud history suggests we should seriously look at reconstituting the

Maori Battlaion:

The battalion fought during the GreekNorth African and Italian campaigns during which it earned a formidable reputation as a fighting force which has subsequently been acknowledged by both Allied and German commanders. It was also the most decorated New Zealand battalion during the war.

They could serve as a full battalion back up to the NZSAS and we could loan them out to the British is the Argies get a little more bellicose. If the British then sent the Ghurkas and the Maori Battalion to the Falklands then the Argentinians may well just surrender the mainland.

Flippancy aside, I think a reconstituted Maori Battalion could be useful for a whole lot more reasons. Notwithstanding the tremendous benefits of providing a disciplined and effective fighting force it would also serve to create a whole heap of positive role models to modern, urban Maori who would identify more with this than with traditional iwi based identities. It could provide a valid and honourable career path for young urban Maori along with a way of sorting out some of the more troubled youth in a Maori yet disciplined environment.

Anyway I think the idea has merit…what do readers think.

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  • Anonymous

    I thought the vast majority of army personnel are Maori anyway. So we essentially already have that, along with a strong Maori influence when it comes to any official matter.

  • nasska

    Great idea so long as you can guarantee the loyalty of the Battalion.  What happens if you get a few of Hone’s Haters in the hierarchy?

  • ConwayCaptain


    The old boys of the MB must be turning in their graves to see the state that the Maori Youth are in today.  They need role models.  Look at Piti Weepu feeding his little daughter.  What a great role model.  A tender father and a damn good AB.

    I think that the lefties and do ggoders would shit themselves if this was raised.  But when you think that most of the Army are Maori anyway they should be held up as role modesl as well.

    There was a Pakeha Surgeon, forgotten his name, who was the MO of the MB and he had a whole load of letters after his name but he said the ones he was prodest of was 27th (Maori Battalion).

  • James Stephenson

    Sorry to be all pedantic, but Rommel was the Desert Fox…the 7th Armoured Division were the Desert Rats.

  • Zolteg

    Given the news this morning that the TF battalions are to be reduced, perhaps combining to a re-formed 28th Batt may be worthwhile

  • Brighton Belle

    I had the honour of being a part of a return to to Monte Casino and saw first hand the honour and  dedication evident in the 27th Maori Battleton they were an extremely powerful battle hardened, group of warriors working as one – and if the Maori youth of today could be funnelled into that kind of discipline and AS ONE thinking they could only excel as their forefathers before them..

  • Greg M

    Bloody good idea. My late grandfather, Captain Deamer ,was an instructor for the Maori battalion at fort cautley,narrow neck.He always spoke very highly of the men, and their unique way of “doing the business”
    Many years later I ended up at narrow neck, now HMNZS Tamaki, The gunroom and officers quarters are essentially unchanged.

  • Guest

    An excellent idea, and have the division steeped in Maori mythology and history. ceremonial Maori weapons for officers, put them on a pedestal like the Gurkhas, funded with the same principles as the SAS.

    • Guest

      Founded, not funded!

      And make them a Commonwealth expeditionary force rather than civil defense focused for the south pacific.

  • George

    28 [Maori] Bn were men among men.  Strangely though the Army have been very reluctant to reconstitute the arrangement.  I asked old senior officers [they had faought alongside them as young men in North Africa and Italy] at a gathering once ‘why not?’ They had a Maori Chief of Staff at the time.  The comment was as long as the Army’s bum pointed to the floor they were not going to expose themselves to the regional tribal pressures and political interference behind the scenes. Army is a meritocracy and has its own hierarchy, not a tribal one.

    That said, the Maoris were treated very shabbily wrg to rehabilitation loans and benefits accorded other returned men.  They gave beyond all others and were crapped on from a height when they tried to re-establish themselves in civvy street.

  • Lloyd

    Captured Germans at Monte Cassino said that their senior officers rated the Ghurkas and the Maori Battalion as their strongest foes.

    • Brighton Belle

      Correct Lloyd the Italians at Monte Cassino love al Kiwis but the Maori Battelon were held in awe for their stamina and tenacity. What a magnificent aspiration for young Maori struggling to find their path in life.  

  • Richard B. (formally poorman)

    A good thought Mr Whale.
    Although, I do have a slight reservation.
    I support a one NZ for all, not different rules based on race.
    BUT – This could really motivate and focus some of our Maori youth.

  • napalm in the morning

    Could be our version of French Foreign Legion, put them in the Falklands and when they are not training they could shear the sheep and operate the meat works


    Mana,was a word that was fitting for the Maori battalion.Now mana is a joke,as few deserve to use it.Pity that. 

  • Michael

    According to an old Scout master of mine, the Nazis told their troops propaganda that the Maori’s practiced cannibalism. This backfired as it filled the German troops with fear of what would happen if captured – so when they started to be overrun they would fall back rather than continue fighting.

    • Kimbo

      There is a story in one of Michael King’s books about how Peter Fraser, the NZ Prime Minister arranged for some ti ti (mutton birds) to be sent over to the 28th Maori Batallion as a special boost for morale.

      Unfortunately, the plane carrying the supplies into Italy was shot down behind enemy lines.

      Nek Minnut Geobbels is running the propaganda line, “Ze British Tommies are so poorly supplied and starving, zey are haffing to eat ze seagulls as rations”.

  • ConwayCaptain

    One way to bring discipline and esprit de corps to young people of ALL ages and groups would be to have compulsory CCF units in all secondary schools with retired Warrant Officers running them.

    The Cameron Govt is considering this in the UK and an organisation is putting ex servicemen into schools to teach etc.  Worth a try but wait for the wails from the left wing schoolies

  • Ellcam

    Yes, a very good idea.

    In fact, I recall that back in the early to mid-90s Mike Moore publically suggested that reforming the battalion had merit.

  • Anonymous

    It is a good idea but, George has a point Maori are entrenched in their tribalism, until they can move on from that they will continue to remain a disgruntled minority in permanent grievance mode. The old boys would turn in there graves if they could see how pathetic Maori had become. Do we really want more race based anything or should we be concentrating on being New Zealanders.

    • Kimbo

      You are a bit harsh, Mr_Blobby.

      Within the 4 companies (sorry – someone will no doubt correct me, especially on this site if my military terminology is wrong!) there was an acknowledgement of tribal/rohe differences within the Maori Battalion – was a source of friendly competition and necessary esprit de corp.

      The NgaPuhi from up north were, “The Gum-diggers”
      The Te Arawa from the Bay of Plenty were “The Penny Divers” (derisive term re how they made money from tourists in early Roto-Vegas).
      The Ngati Porou of the East Coast were “The Cowboys” (primitive place and corresponding mode of transport).
      Everyone else was “Ngati Everywhere”.

      A fine bunch of soldiers. Their greatest and saddest moment came in 1941 at Melame airfield in Crete. The German paratroops, the famed Fallschirmjager had taken the significant and fateful toehold that ultimately determined the battle for Crete.

      However, the leaders of the batallion stirred themselves with a haka amongst the olive groves for a bayonet charge, and they actually retook the airfield – thus denying the Germans further access, supplies, and reinforcements.

      However, in shades of Major Malone and the Wellington Battalion on Chunuk Bair at Galipolli in 1915, the Maori were not supported, and were reduced to throwing rocks when eventually forced from the battlefield through lack of munitions and reinforcement when the inevitable counter-attack was launched.

      • Mr_Blobby

        Well written but I stand by my comments. The old boys (Maori Battalian) would turn in there graves if they could see how pathetic (Modern) Maori had become.

  • napalm in the morning

    I dont believe the German Paratroopers were used again ( during war) as they had taken huge losses at Melame and  Hargest is thought to be responsible for the lack of support to  Maori Battalion but by that stage the troops on the ground were a bit of a mixed bag , if leadership was better  Crete may not have been lost,

  • Killjoy

    Maori people have a proud history and apart from the fact that they often fought each other, they had great community (whanau) wide vision.

    I was thinking about this today where you have so many places today where Maori have unproportional residence (poor communities) and no apparent pride taken in their home/ community/ appearance and no hope or drive for anything better.
    Maybe because generationally they don’t actually see it as “theirs” but a legacy of “what the pakehas have done”.
    I think your idea could have merit but in the same way, why would they want to fight a war that wasn’t “theirs”?

    • Peter Wilson

      ..why would they want to fight a war that wasn’t “theirs”?     

      I’ve heard this before and it confuses me. If the treaty means anything, it was to create new beginnings, working together etc. including “your enemy is my enemy.” standing side by side.

      But certainly it can’t be ignored that all colonised people have problems with alcohol, abuse etc etc.

      The only way solution would be to restore Maori governance of everything. That won’t be happening, so the only way forward is for Maori to accept that things will never go back.

  • Rob

    I hate to split hairs Whale, but the Maori did not invent trench warfare. Trenches go all the way back to the Romans and beyond. Modern trenches (ie., for use with firearms) date back to fortification theories of the 17th century. Having said that, the Maori developed their own very sophisticated fortifications independently, and that IS some achievement.

    Sorry, I’m a history freak. I agree with everything else you’ve said. A reconstituted Maori Battalion would be a sterling example for young Maori, but I do worry that it’d get infested with “we want our land back” whingers.