Author(s): J. F. (Joseph Frederick) Cody
The Maori warrior in New Zealand first came to prominence during the land wars of the 19th Century. During these conflicts, they were known as fierce opponents, as well as courageous allies. Subsequently, and especially based on the Treaty of Waitangi, the Maori felt that they owed special allegiance to the Queen, to the extent that they volunteered to serve during the wars in South Africa and the Sudan, and they were eventually accepted as a key part of New Zealand's contribution to the Great War of 1914-18. At the outbreak of the Second World War, the Maori again wanted to play a part, although this time they sought a more prominent, fighting role. This was agreed to, and the 28th (Maori) Battalion was formed to embark with the second echelon in 1940. The Battalion had a distinguished fighting record, and the men were much respected and feared, making the Maori unit one of the best that this country has sent from these shores. After initially deploying to England, they re-embarked for the Middle East, and arrived in time for the disastrous campaigns in Greece and Crete. Later, they fought in the 1941Libyan Campaign and in the 1942 battles in the defence of Egypt, before moving to Italy and the final campaign. In all these campaigns, the Battalion played a key role in the fighting, such as the counterattacks at Maleme and 42nd Street in the Crete Campaign, or again in the Battle of Tebaga Gap, where a young 2nd Lieutenant Ngarimu gained his posthumous Victoria Cross.