Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Whānau receive Māori Battalion medals

The whānau of 10 soldiers of the Māori Battalion who fought in World War II have received their ancestors’ medals at a ceremony held at Burnham Military Camp near Christchurch.

Three senior New Zealand Army officers presented medals to the 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 was a significant day to honour the service and sacrifice of those soldiers of the 28 (Maori) Battalion.

“The Māori Battalion holds a special place in history for what it achieved on the battlefield, but also for what it represented, and the mana the soldiers bought to themselves, to their families, to our Army, and to our nation,” he said.

“We are especially thankful for the presence of Sir Robert ‘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after World War I, when about 10% of medals posted to ex-service personnel or their families were returned because of out-of-date address information.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 Coy 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.

“This included a lot of their personal time when they should have been taking a lunch break or going home for the day. I can’t thank them enough.” 

Two similar ceremonies were held in Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne last year, with more planned for Rotorua, Trentham and Waitangi in the coming months.

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 here: https://www.nzdf.mil.nz/nzdf/medal-and-service-records/medal-applications/

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