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70 year old recordings from Māori soldiers rediscovered

Manatū Taonga/Ministry for Culture and Heritage

29 November

70 year old recordings from Māori soldiers rediscovered in time for Christmas

Today recordings made by wounded Māori troops in North Africa 70 years ago have gone up on the 28th Māori Battalion website and help recognise official winding up of the 28th Māori Battalion Association this weekend. The recordings were personal messages to be broadcast back home in time for Christmas, however the identity of some of the soldiers on the recording still remains a mystery.

The recording was made by the National Broadcasting Service (now Radio New Zealand), which had a mobile recording unit that travelled overseas with the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force. In the early 1940s this was cutting-edge technology, recording sound onto acetate discs in a mobile studio in the back of a specially fitted-out Bedford truck that travelled through the deserts of North Africa and on through Italy with New Zealand forces.

Sound Archives Nga Taonga Korero preserves and maintains these recordings, and archivist Sarah Johnston came upon this taonga while researching seasonal Christmas audio last month.

“The original description of this 1942 recording was ‘Christmas carols from staff and patients at No. 2 New Zealand General Hospital, North Africa’”, she explains. “On listening to it we found messages from doctors and nurses and descriptions of Christmas Day celebrations in the hospital, and then a group of Māori patients is introduced, led by Nurse Wiki Katene of Porirua (Ngati Toa).

They sing “Silent Night/Marie te po” and then, while the choir sings “Tama Ngakau Marie” in the background, 14 men introduce themselves and send greetings in Māori to whanau back home”.

You can listen to recordings on the 28 Māori Battalion website:

Because of the background singing and the age of the audio, some of the voices were hard to decipher, but by enhancing the audio historian Dr Monty Soutar of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and coordinator of the 28 Māori Battalion website, has been able to identify most of the speakers who he says include Peter Hodge of Ngati Whakaue, Te Irimana Waenga of Te Whanau-a-Apanui, Barney Kapuaroa of Gisborne, Tame (Thomas) Karena of Ngati Kahungunu, Kopu Heremia of Ngati Raukawa,, L/Sgt Hira Parata of Ngati Toa, Cpl Ripene Matoe of Ngati Ruanui and Hami Ngaheke of Ngati Pikiahu-Waewae.

It is hoped whanau and descendants of these men will listen to the recording through the website and maybe put names to the remaining unidentified voices.

Soutar says the recordings include interesting snippets such as an interview in Egypt with the victorious Māori Battalion rugby team captain Syd Jackson and coach Pine Taiapa, at the end of the 1943 Freyberg Cup final.

There are also recordings by Lt Rangi Logan (Ngati Kahungunu), Pte Bill Te Anga (Waikato, Maniapoto), Henare Toka (Ngapuhi), and Lt-Col Tiwi Love (Te Ati Awa), who was killed just months later, encouraging their iwi to send more reinforcements.

The Sound Archives and the website are continuing to work to create a comprehensive online collection of wartime recordings made by members of the 28th Maori Battalion, which will ensure their legacy remains alive and accessible for future generations.

The 28th Māori Battalion website is produced by Manatū Taonga/Ministry for Culture and Heritage with support from Te Puni Kokiri, on behalf of the 28 Māori Battalion Association and is a repository for archival photos, film and audio of the Battalion.


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