Urgent call for 28th Maori Battalion photographs

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Wellington, April 19, 2017

The author of a book that will capture the battle experience of the 28th Maori Battalions B-Company is calling for family descendants and relatives to help locate up to 400 photos of the 900 men who made up the company.

The author, Sir Wira Gardiner, a military historian and retired Lieutenant-Colonel, said that the book will capture the virtues and bravery of the men with an emphasis on telling the story from soldiers perspectives.

Those returning spoke very little of their experiences. This book captures what we have and makes it accessible, he said.

The men came mainly from the eastern and central Bay of Plenty, and from the Coromandel and Waikato.

They were predominantly from tribes with connections to the Mtaatua people including the Tauranga Moana tribes; the Te Arawa people including the Twharetoa tribe; the Hauraki tribes and the Tainui tribes.

Local focus

The book will therefore be a locally-focused history of the people of one company, B-Company.

Sir Wira has completed the first draft of the book. He has a complete list of all the names of the Company but access to photos of only 500 of the 900 men. He would like to publish a full list of names and photos at the end of the book.

Sir Wira has been engaged by Culture and Heritage Ministry in partnership with, B Company History Trust, chaired by Graeme Vercoe, a District Manager and Registrar of the Mori Land Court and retired Lieutenant-Colonel.

Graeme Vercoe said that Sir Wira has done an amazing job with the writing and shaping of the mens stories.

Their stories are told from a Mori perspective and will help inform the education curriculum in the years ahead. The book is unique and relatives will have the benefit of this book for years to come, he said.

Lone Survivor

There is now only one surviving member of the B-Company of the 28th Maori Battalion, Robert (Bom) Gillies who is 93.

Graeme Vercoe said that Mr Gillies has been a guide for the book.

All of his comrades have packed their tents. He is the one left standing he is their voice. The book should have been written 30 years ago while he still had his mates to share their stories. There have been other efforts to pull a book together but this time with the help of the Culture and Heritage and Education Ministries, Rotorua Museum and Ngarimu Scholarship Board, we will get there, he said.

First of three

The book is the first of three planned fellowships managed by the Culture and Heritage Ministry and funded by the Education Ministry and the Ngarimu VC and 28th (Maori) Battalion Memorial Scholarship Fund Board.

The projects will focus on the Battalions regional A, B and D Companies.

They will complement the history of C Company Monty Soutars Nga Tama Toa which was published with Culture and Heritage Ministrys support in 2008.

Infantry Battalion

The 28th Mori Battalion was an infantry battalion of the New Zealand Army that served during the Second World War in the Greek, North African and Italian campaigns.

It earned a formidable reputation as a fighting force and was the most-decorated New Zealand battalion during the war.

Photos can be emailed to: info

They should be a minimum of 300dpi, preferably a tif file and a scan of a photo.

Photo Caption:

Robert Gillies, the last surviving veteran of the 28th Maori Battalions B Company. Pictured here at the official events marking the closure of the 28th Maori Battalion Association in 2012.
Mr Gillies enlisted aged 17 and embarked for war on 1 July 1943 with the 10th Reinforcements. He served with the Battalion in Italy.
Picture by Michael Bradley Photography

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