Friday, May 24, 2024

Unclaimed Maori battalion medals identified

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is encouraging whānau of soldiers and officers of the 28 (Maori) Battalion to apply for medals their relatives may be eligible for.

At a ceremony conducted at Rongomaraeroa o nga hau e wha Marae in Waiouru, Chief of Army Major General John Boswell announced the NZDF was now in a position to present these medals, which recognise the service and sacrifice of soldiers and officers of the 28 (Maori) Battalion.

“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World War I, when about 10 percent of medals posted to ex-service personnel or their families were returned because of out-of-date address information,” NZDF said in a statement.

For a variety of reasons, however, many former 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 Coy 28 (Maori) Battalion – 137 (or 15%) of the 900 men who served in C Company, it was found, never applied for their medals.

Last year the first unclaimed medals ceremony was conducted at Hawke’s Bay’s Houngarea Marae, followed by a large Ceremony at C Company House in Gisborne, where 65 medals were presented to whānau of C Company soldiers.

Major General Boswell said it was his intention to perform similar medal ceremonies for A Company, B Company and a combined ceremony for D Company and Battalion HQ.

“This is a significant way to honour the service and sacrifice of those soldiers from 28 (Maori) Battalion. It’s also an opportunity to recognise the mana they bought to themselves, to their families, to the New Zealand Army and to New Zealand,” he said.

NZDF Personnel Archives and Medals have identified approximately 500 sets of medals that were never claimed by former 28 (Maori) Battalion personnel. The list of names is attached to this email.

The New Zealand National Commemorative Service to mark the 75th Anniversary of the Battles of Cassino at the Cassino War Cemetery, Italy 2019.

Sir Robert Gillies, who is the last living member of the Battalion, said “it’s about time these medals were presented.” Sir Robert said his medals reminded him of his friends in the Battalion, and were always hanging on his coat.

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 may also be submitted via: https://www.nzdf.mil.nz/nzdf/medal-and-service-records/medal-applications/

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