Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Thousands turn out for Māori Battalion medal ceremony

The whānau of 80 Māori Battalion soldiers who fought in World War II have received their medals at a ceremony conducted at Te Papaiouru Marae in Rotorua.

Thousands of people turned out to support the ceremony on Saturday, including the last remaining member of the 28 (Maori) Battalion, Sir Robert ‘Bom’ Gillies.

Rotorua is Sir Robert’s hometown and the ceremony was conducted at his home marae, with the Minister for Veterans, Meka Whaitiri; Minister, Kelvin Davis and Minister, Kiritapu Allan also attending and presenting medals.

Three senior New Zealand Army Officers also presented medals to whānau, which recognise the service and sacrifice of soldiers and officers of the 28 (Maori) Battalion.

Colonel Trevor Walker, representing Chief of Army Major General John Boswell, said the ceremony in Rotorua was a “fantastic occasion”.

“Each ceremony is subtly different, here in Rotorua today on Papaiouru Marae it was both emotional and joyful. The feeling of aroha was tangible and the knowledge that we are helping to put something right for the whānau of those men who marched into history is a real privilege,” he said.

The whānau of 80 Māori Battalion soldiers who fought in World War II have received their medals at a ceremony conducted at Te Papaiouru Marae in Rotorua.

“We are especially thankful for the presence of Sir Bom Gillies at today’s ceremony. To have a veteran from that storied battalion here with us today makes this ceremony very special.”

New Zealand Government policy after World War II was that former service personnel would have to apply for their medals, which would then be sent to them through the post.

This was to avoid the problems experienced after World War I, when about 10 percent of medals posted to ex-service personnel or their families were returned because of out-of-date address information.

For a variety of reasons, however, many World War II veterans did not claim their medals.

NZDF Personnel Archives and Medals worked with David Stone, from Te Mata Law, regarding the unclaimed medals of C Company 28 (Maori) Battalion.

They identified approximately 500 sets of medals, which were never claimed by former 28 (Maori) Battalion personnel.

“The team from NZDF archives are the unsung heroes of this kaupapa, they reviewed thousands of files to determine who had received medals and who were yet to claim,” Colonel Walker said.

Three ceremonies have previously occurred in Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne and Christchurch, with a further two ceremonies set to be held over 2022-2023, in Trentham and Waitangi, to present the medals to whānau.

The families of the men who never claimed their medals are entitled to apply for these medals through the New Zealand Defence Force Personnel Archives and Medals Office.

The contact details are:

NZDF Personnel Archives & Medals

Trentham Military Camp

Private Bag 905

Upper Hutt 5140

New Zealand

Tel: 04 527 5280

Online applications can also be submitted here: https://www.nzdf.mil.nz/nzdf/medal-and-service-records/medal-applications/.

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