28th Māori Battalion (NZ) Association Wind-up
5 November 2012
28th Māori Battalion (NZ) Association Wind-up: Old Soldiers Never Die
The decision to wind-up the 28th Māori Battalion National Association was made by the founding members themselves, spokesman Matt Te Pou says.
The founding members first began talking about their wind-up a number of years ago and that kōrero was formalised earlier this year at the 28 Māori Battalion Association AGM and was supported by members via a postal ballot.
In total, 3,600 men served with the 28th Battalion during World War 2 in campaigns across North Africa, Greece, Crete and Italy. They were a front-line infantry made up of volunteers who served with valour and distinction.
Today, 26 Māori Battalion veterans survive with less than half able-bodied. “The vets don’t want the formality of running an incorporated society anymore – with ongoing meetings and AGMs – it all takes a toll on them,” Matt Te Pou says.
“None of them wants to be the last man standing and those who remain just look forward to getting together when they can, to reminisce and to share a meal.”
Te Puni Kōkiri, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the New Zealand Defence Force, Department of Internal Affairs and the Governor General’s office are working together to organise a special day to mark the wind-up.
Two events will be held: a National War Memorial Military Service in the morning with the Governor General and Associate Minister of Māori Affairs as Guests of Honour; and, a luncheon at Pipitea Marae. The one-hour formal remembrance service starts at 9.30am and the veterans, dignitaries and invited guests will attend the pōwhiri at the marae by 11am.
Matt Te Pou says the health and comfort of the veterans is central to the planning with the agreement of all involved to keep the events as brief as possible without losing the significance of the occasion.
Winding up the National Association does not affect the continuation of affiliated branches that include veterans of the 28th Battalion. “Those branches will be able to continue using ‘The 28th Māori Battalion” name as long as their membership includes a 28th veteran,” Matt Te Pou says. “When they no longer have a veteran in their midst, they will not be able to use the name.”
“Although the Association will no longer exist, the famous 28th Battalion song holds a challenge for those remaining affiliated branches. The song says; ‘and so we carry on, the traditions they have laid’.
“I have no doubt that remaining affiliated branches will be working through how they can continue to honour the memory of the 28th after the last soldier has passed on.”