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70 years ago this month

To ready for the approaching Winter Campaign the Battalion completed a 100-mile march from Maadi to Alexandria in six days. They also suffered casualties during night manoeuvres.  Read the war diary for August 1943 here

Le Roy Merriman

Serial No: 
25945
Surname: 
Merriman
Forename(s): 
Le Roy
Next of kin on enlistment: 
Mr W. Merriman (father), Heale Street, Thames, New Zealand
Rank: 
Lance Corporal
Address on enlistment: 
15 Hardinge Street, Auckland C. 1, New Zealand
Date of death: 
27-May-41
Place of death: 
Crete

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I am the nephew of three

I am the nephew of three brothers who fought with 28th Maori Battalion.  These soldiers were Leroy Merriman, Waimanuka Merriman and Albert Pearson.  Leroy was killed during the bayonet charge at 42nd Street on the Island of Crete 27 May 1941. Waimanuka and Albert returned to New Zealand following their tours of duty. 

My brothers William, Roger and my son Ian travelled with me to Crete with the 70th Commemorative Pilgrimage in May 2011 to pay homage to our Uncle and to those other warriors who fell during the Battle.

Uncle has no known resting place so as a family we decided to "adopt" an unknown soldier at Suda Bay Row E 6 # 7 and we placed Uncle's NZ Memorial Cross over the headstone and then paid our respects, recited our prayers and sang our waiatas.  It was an emotional event! Despite reading about our soldiers efforts during the Battle of Crete one does not appreciate the difficulties that they experienced until you see for yourself what they had to do and the country over which they had to fight.  Absolutely mind boggling! 

Both the Commonwealth and German cemeteries are beautifully maintained and yes despite the passing years there are still Cretans who remember and appreciate what the New Zealaners and Australians did.

The village of Galatas honoured the memory and deeds of our troops by inviting the tour group of 140 people to a dinner and entertainment following the New Zealand Memorial Service.  It was the highlight of the tour for our whanau.

 

After Crete we travelled by bus with 33 other Crete pilgrims through Greece stopping over at sites where the Division had fought and then to into Turkey to Gallipoli.  What a waste of human life!

Our grandfather Waimanuka (Te Nuka) and his brother Makiwi Merriman fought here alongside my father's uncles Roger and Harry Dansey.  A very sobering experience and we observed many of our Pakeha companions in tears as they looked upon this desolate place. 

Cassino was our next visit and to see the cemeteries of the Commonwealth and Polish dead row after row brought tears to our eyes. The family names of 28th members so familiar to us buried so far from their homeland and their kin; it was fitting that we on behalf of those families paid our respects to each of the fallen.

 Kia ora  Andrew Marutuahu Kusabs eldest son of Te Rina Merriman (Kusabs) 

Jim Eagles NZ Herald article 16 August 2010

The Kusabs boys, originally from Rotorua, selected one of the unmarked New Zealand graves, hung it with a medal, sang a song and offered a prayer. Andrew, the oldest, explained why. "Our mother's brother, our uncle, died on Crete at 42nd Street but his body was never found. We decided to adopt one of the unknown Kiwis as our uncle and pay our respects."

Later we went to 42nd Street, so named because it was built by the British 42nd Engineer Field Company, where I learned that the Kusabs' uncle had died in another famous bayonet charge which, as at Galatas, disrupted the German advance long enough to allow the Allies to retreat.

The charge was sparked by a Maori soldier who, seeing troops of the Mountain Regiment emerge out of the olive groves, picked up a bren gun magazine and using it as a patu performed a haka as the prelude to a ferocious attack which sent the Germans fleeing.

The olive trees are mostly still flourishing today and we stood in front of them while the sons and grandsons of those Maori Battalion soldiers performed another haka in their honour.

Afterwards the Kusabs looked somberly across the red soil and thought about the uncle who may still lie beneath. "This is where it happened," said Andrew. "It's good that we could come here. I feel we've helped lay his spirit to rest."

See the full NZ Herald article.