28th Māori Battalion commemorated in Reefton
The D Company of the 28th Māori Battalion has been honoured and remembered by the small community of Reefton, on the west coast of the South Island.
The event was the first of its kind and organised by the local RSA to recognise the Māori contribution to WWII.
Sir Wira Gardiner was a part of the march to remember this day when soldiers of D Company of the 28th Maori Battalion returned home from WWII.
“I think that it's bloody great actually to think that in a small community like Reefton the kind of event that occurred more than 70 years ago, 72 - 73 years ago, is commemorated still in small communities throughout New Zealand.”
According to Tony Groves, a member of the local RSA in Reefton, they wanted to pay homage to the Māori soldiers.
“Part of our core function of the Reefton RSA which was formed in 1932 is to remember. As a result of their service, remembrance was due to the 28th Māori Battalion.”
There are only four remaining 28th Maori Battalion soldiers alive today; they were some of the ones who were lucky to come home, many perished on the battlefields.
Sir Wira Gardiner is writing a book on the history of the B Company of the Bay Of Plenty region.
He says he’s in a hurry to get it published.
“In B Company of the 28th Māori Battalion, we only had one soldier left, Robert Gillies. We hope that we get the publication of the book out so that can celebrate the death and the passing of all of his mates.”
Local iwi Ngāti Waewae spokesperson Te Rua Mason says they wanted to ensure tikanga Maori was upheld at the memorial which is hoped will bring the community closer together.
“Taiaha was a symbol of warfare in the times of our ancestors. Today I'd like to think that we've brought that forward as a symbol of peace, a symbol of unity, working together within the communities.”
Through these commemorations, it is thought that the legacy of the famous Māori Battalion will remain strong and never forgotten.