The 28 (Maori) Battalion unclaimed medals kaupapa has come to a close, with the final ceremony taking place in Napier, at Pakipaki’s Houngarea Marae on Saturday.
Chief of Army, Major General John Boswell, took part in the presentation of 46 sets of medals to whānau, recognising the service and sacrifice of soldiers and officers of the 28 (Maori) Battalion.
“This process has seen just over 400 families awarded the medals earned by their whānau for service with 28 (Maori) Battalion during World War Two,” Major General Boswell said.
“We should look back with pride at the service of all of our units in the Second World War.
“The 28 (Maori) Battalion holds a special place in that history for what they achieved on the battlefield, but also for what they represented, and the mana they brought to themselves, to their families, to our Army, and to our nation.”
Sir Robert (Bom) Gillies, the last surviving member of the 28 (Maori) Battalion, attended Saturday’s proceedings as he has attended medal ceremonies held throughout the three-year journey.
Colonel Trevor Walker has led the coordination of all ceremonies on behalf of the New Zealand Army in Waitangi, Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne, Christchurch, Trentham, Horowhenua and Rotorua.
“Having the final ceremony held at Houngarea Marae was incredibly significant,” Colonel Walker said.
“Not only was this where the first medals ceremony was conducted in 2021, but members of the 28 (Maori) Battalion were bid farewell here and welcomed back to Pakipaki during and immediately following World War Two.”
New Zealand government policy after the Second World War was that former service personnel needed to apply for their medals, which would then be mailed to them.
This was to avoid the problems experienced after the First World War, when around 10% of medals posted to ex-service personnel or their families were returned because of out-of-date address information.
For a number of reasons, thousands of Second World War medals were never claimed by veterans.
The New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) Personnel Archives and Medals unit worked with David Stone, from Te Mata Law, regarding the unclaimed medals of 28 (Maori) Battalion.
They identified approximately 500 sets of medals which had not been claimed by former battalion personnel.
“NZDF Archives in Trentham have worked long hours in their own time to ensure we have been able to go through all the records and identify those people, those soldiers, who deserved the medallic recognition and didn’t receive it,” Colonel Walker said.
While the Pakipaki ceremony was the culmination of this kaupapa, the families of men and women who never claimed their medals from military service are entitled to apply for them through NZDF Personnel Archives and Medals.
Applications can be submitted online. More information can be found here.