To mark the 70th anniversary of the 28 Māori Battalion's part in the Second World War we're providing a detailed monthly account of their activities derived from the original war diaries. These have never been published before.
The Battalion are at Montaquila as counter-attack reserve for 2 (British) Paratroop Brigade, then provided relief for 24 Battalion atop Colle Belvedere. By months end they had moved up the Rapidi valley to Sora.
The first days of the month the Battalion re-enter Cassino township and then are quickly withdrawn. They then move to Colle Belvedere, protecting the Cairo-Telle road and supporting patrols.
The Māori Battalion are used again by the Division in the third battle of Cassino. After the harrowing losses at the railway station, the Battalion is down 169 men in operational strength. Their orders are to clear the township. The damp, rubble, snipers and decomposing bodies heighten the intensity of battle.
Reconnaissance and patrols are undertaken to ready for the Battalion's attack on the Cassino railway station. The attack saw the unit suffer over 100 casualties in less than 24 hours, the heaviest of any of the New Zealand units.
9th and 10th reinforcements have arrived and all of the Battalion are acclimating to the snow and training hard, including practicing river crossings. The first assault on Cassino by American forces is underway.
Along with the rest of the Division, the Battalion attempt to take Orsogna again. They see their first action in Italy on December 7th.
The Battalion is in Taranto training and officers are undertaking Division exercises. They pre-record a broadcast of songs and messages home.
The Battalion move from the expanse of the desert to Italy, readying themselves for the new environment and its challenges.
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.
Advanced training including night exercises is the Battalion’s agenda for this month. The Tenth Reinforcements reach Egypt and begin training.
The Battalion continues training at Maadi Camp with leave to Cairo. The Ruapehu Furlough Draft has reached home and the Ninth Reinforcements have arrived to replace them.
The Battalion are back at Maadi camp resting and cleaning up after the arduous North African campaign.
The Battalion carried out its final operation of the North African Campaign. A and D Companies suffered a number of casualties and fatalities in this operation. Fighting ended with Axis troops surrendering on May 13.
Near Enfidaville, 5 NZ Infantry Brigade, of which the Māori Battalion was a part, found in its path a 180-m high rock fortress called Takrouna which was held by the enemy. Like Point 209, the Māori Battalion takes a significant role in taking Takrouna especially a group of B Company men.
During March the Māori Battalion was involved in two battles. The first was a defensive one at Medenine and the second battle was an offensive one at Tebaga Gap. This later battle included Point 209 where 2/Lt Moana Ngarimu and 21 others were killed. Ngarimu was later awarded a VC for his bravery.
The Battalion remained on the outskirts of Tripoli for the whole month. A Divisional parade, Brigade sports, rugby and unloading cargo kept them occupied.
The Fifth Army, including the Battalion are clearing a landing ground near Tamet. Exposed to attack they suffer 20 casualties in one raid. Later in the month the Battalion led the 2NZEF into Tripoli.
The Battalion is now officially integrated into 5 Brigade. In early December they set out on the next step of the Eighth Army's plan to capture Tripoli.
After Miteirirya Ridge the Battalion rests at Alam El Onsol. Unexpectedly they are told they will participate in Operation Supercharge under the British 151 Brigade.
The Battalion are rehearsing desert warfare tactics and maintaining fitness through marches. On 23 October they participate in Montgomery's offensive with other allied forces.
After a successful attack on the enemy at Munassib Depression the Battalion retire to Burg El Arab for a rest period - the first in three months. The second part of the month was spent training.
The Battalion marched back to the front line taking position a few hundred metres from the Italians’. Full of graves and constantly hit by shells, it was the worst area they had occupied.
The Battalion remained relatively mobile, poised to move at a moment’s notice, while all the time trying to counter the movements of the German and Italian armies. Casualties were constant while the Battalion was in the front line.
For the first half of June the Battalion remain in Syria, this includes a weeks vacation on the coast near Beirut. In mid-June they are rushed back to Egypt to face Rommel's onslaught.
The Battalion is at Arsal in the Syrian foothills undertaking exercises and manoeuvres. Major Tiwi Love becomes the first Māori commander of the unit.
At Aarsal in Lebanon,the Battalion train, strengthen defences and carry out reconnaissance. Their rifle companies guard ammunition and bomb dumps and prisoners.
The Battalion has left Egypt for Syria travelling through Palestine and Lebanon. At Arsal they improve their defences.
Like the previous month February 1942 was spent re-equipping and training, the Battalion regaining its vitality.
The Battalion returns from Libya to Egypt, celebrating New Year's Eve at Baggush. They return to Kabrit and resume training.
As part of a renewed offensive to breach the enemy cordon surrounding Tobruk the Battalion was in action again at Menastir, before joining the Eighth Army's pursuit of Rommel’s force as it pulled back to Gazala. Read the Battalion's war diary from December 1941 here.
Operation Crusader, in which the Eighth Army was to make a third attempt to lift the siege of Tobruk in Lybia, saw the Māori Battalion take the military barracks above the township of Sollum, and hold it against constant enemy shell fire from the Halfaya escarpment.
The whole of 5 Brigade, including the Maori Battalion, moved 80 miles (130 km) west across roadless desert to 'Baggush Box'. Training consisted of night and day mobile attacks, assaults on wire defences, mine clearing and navigation exercises – a hint of things to come.
The Battalion relocated from Tahag to an area near El Alamein where they assisted in building a fortress called the Kaponga Box. The Battalion’s task was to construct a 10-mile (16 kms) stretch of road connecting the Box with similar defensive work at Alamein.
The first half of August was spent at Kabrit along the Suez Canal, the Battalion undergoing three weeks’ combined operations training. During the second half of the month the Battalion was at Tahag training for desert warfare, while 20% of the men went on daily leave to Cairo or Port Said.
The Battalion began training for a new kind of war ― highly mobile fighting across the huge spaces of the North African desert. Inter-unit sports activities were introduced to improve fitness and to create further cohesiveness within and between battalions.
June was a recovery month for those who had been evacuated to Egypt from Greece and Crete and a chance to review the lessons learnt from their first campaign.
The New Zealanders suffered heavy losses in the Battle for Crete that began on 20 May 1941, but in ferocious hand-to-hand fighting at Maleme and 42nd Street, the legend of the Māori Battalion was born.
The Battalion first faced the Germans in Greece after they were sent there from Egypt in late March 1941. After the the British command decided to abandon Greece and most of the Battalion was evacuated to Crete aboard the Glengyle. They left behind 10 dead and 81 prisoners of war.
The Battalion reach Port Tewfik after leaving England in January. Most of the month is spent adjusting to the new environment including getting fit enough to cope with the hotter climate.