Māori Battalion diary - December 1941


As part of a renewed offensive to breach the enemy cordon surrounding Tobruk (in Libya), at the start of December the Māori Battalion left the Sollum area for Menastir, some 22 km to the north-west. After three days, in which they ambushed a German supply column, they were directed back to Sollum Barracks where they spent their time carrying out raids on Lower Sollum. The Eighth Army was now pursuing Rommel’s force as it pulled back to Gazala and on 8 December the Battalion joined the pursuit. They marched to Sidi Azeiz before taking trucks to Acroma from where 5 Brigade began a five-day push west to Gazala. En route, the Battalion fought several engagements against the Italian rearguard, captured thousands of prisoners, and suffered 145 casualties including 36 killed. Christmas coincided with the conclusion of the Second Libyan Campaign and the Battalion returned to their base camp at Baggush in Egypt.[1]

The Battalion began the month with 25 officers plus 2/Lt Maloney, the doctor, padre and YMCA Field Secretary, who were all attached. Capt. Tiwi Love was temporarily in command of the Battalion:

  • Lieutenant-Colonels: Humphrey Dyer (2 IC, LBO)
  • Captains: Tiwi Love (acting CO), Chris Sorrenson (adjutant & acting QM), Rangi Royal (OC B Coy)
  • Temporary Captain: Charles Bennett (OC C Coy)
  • Lieutenants: Tiwha Bennett (HQ Coy), Ben Porter (OC A Coy), Dan Urlich (OC HQ Coy)
  • Second Lieutenants: Rangi Logan (OC D Coy), Wai Awarau (B Coy), Jack Ormsby (D Coy),  Ted Pohio (B Coy), Jim Matehaere (D Coy), Mervyn Mitchell (A Coy),  Ruhi Pene (LOB),  Henry Toka (LOB), Hati Rangiuia (C Coy),  Jack Reedy (HQ Coy), Jim Tuhiwai (course),  Paki West LO, HQ Coy), Terry Gilroy (HQ),  Hone Green (LOB),  Don Stewart (HQ Coy), Pine Taiapa (C Coy), Wally Wordley (A Coy).
  • Attached: Capt. M. Kronfeld (RMO), Capt. Kahi Harawira (unit padre), Charles B. Bennett (field-secretary, YMCA), 2/Lt H. T. Maloney (D Coy).


  • 1 Dec:  Sollum Barracks: light enemy artillery fire from Halfaya. The advance party of the Buffs Regiment arrive in the forenoon and Bn disposition is pointed out to their IO; their Intelligence Section moves in to replace the post held by our own. All information relevant to the local situation is handed over. The IO of the 4 Indian Division also arrives and in same manner map references of enemy gun positions both in Lower Sollum and Halfaya are given. 1000 hrs Receipt of movement order. The Brigade is to take up a position in area Bir Zemla. The intention is to operate from this point as a base in a mobile role to harass the rear columns of enemy forces operating between Tobruk and Bardia. 1100 hrs Brigade less 28 Bn moves to new area. 1700 hrs Trucks now available and Bn moves out. Order of march: IO-Bren Carriers-D-A-B-C in column of route past Fort Musaid to Fort Capuzzo thence to Biz Zemla. The convoy passed through Indian troops as it proceeds to Pt 204. Desert formation is adopted from Pt 204. The convoy halted once when the Bren Carriers, who were scouting ahead, returned to report that a convoy was on our left flank, possibly German. D Coy debussed and went forward to recce position later returning safely as it was a friendly convoy. The Bn then proceeded and halted at 2300 hrs. The COCapt. Tiwi Love – and Coy Commanders went forward to contact Brigade, the Bn resting as nothing more could be done that night.
  • 2 Dec:  Menastir. At “first light” the Bn shakes out to open formation. Location on escarpment overlooking main road to Tobruk. 1000 hrs the move down to area completed and consolidation follows. Just prior to our arrival enemy pockets were being mopped up. Beaches still littered with enemy effects and bivouacs were still standing. 1500 hrs A Coy patrol of 2 sections and an officer in command proceeded approximately 1000 yards forward of the area. No movement seen.  1830 hrs another patrol from this Coy – strength 2 sections and a sergeant in command going east contacted 23 Bn  patrols and returned at 2130 hrs. Further patrols were to go out next day paying particular attention to water wells, and if any located, a sample of the water was to be returned for analysis by Medical Officer. Heavy showers during afternoon kept sweeping across Bn area.
  • 3 Dec:  At approximately midnight D Coy captured a captain and 2 ORs mounted on an anti-tank vehicle of our own. They were proceeding along road to Bardia.  Another German vehicle was later captured with 2 corporals. 0830 Prisoners evacuated to Brigade HQ joining with a supply column of the RASC  that was on its way to Sidi Omar. See policy on treatment of prisoners’ property and other responsibilities.
    0900 hrs D Coy sends north a strong recce and fighting patrol supported by machine guns, anti-tank, mortars and carriers. 2/Lt Jack Ormsby in command of patrol. 1100 hrs they are recalled by wireless. A Coy supported by Div Cav have also gone forward along Tobruk Rd. They contact enemy forces and quickly return. Word is received that an enemy column is approaching from the Tobruk region. 1130 our artillery reply to several shells which the enemy lands among them on our left flank. The Div Cav fall back to their position on the escarpment. 1200 hrs a single enemy’s 3-pounder gun shooting shells over A Coy area and bursting in C Coy area. Bn Hqrs and A Coy area is swept by machine gun fire. The patrol from D Coy returns. At this time the Bren Carriers remaining on A Coy's right flank. D Coy on the Bn's left flank astride main road has already engaged the leading column of the approaching enemy.  They had allowed the enemy to come well within their defences until about 12 vehicles in column of route were under the sights of their forward sections and the leading vehicle was barely 55 m from the section astride the road.
    1300 hrs 2/Lt Jim Matehaere then gave the order to fire and the whole line of defences opened up causing heavy casualties among the enemy force. Flanking fire was given by 18 Platoon’s right flank sections, and also by 17 Platoon (commanded by Sgt Jack Tainui) who were forward of 18 Platoon (2/Lt Matehaere). The enemy had divided into two columns. D Coy effectively dealt with the column on the road killing large numbers and capturing many prisoners. The other column went across country and headed towards A Coy area. Supporting machine gun fire and artillery from escarpment on left was very effective. From the commencement of battle A Coy area was practically immobilised by machine gun fire, and owing to the undulating nature of the ground it was difficult to pick up the enemy positions forward of A Coy. D Coy in the meantime had mopped up the column on the road. 1600 hrs with a slight lull in the engagement the Captain Love, after consulting company commanders, decided to make an attack on the column forward of A Coy as it is imperative now to decide the issue before the onset of darkness.
    1700 hrs the attack is launched. 1 section of A Coy under Cpl Meinata Wiki going over with fixed bayonets. In support mortar smoke and machine gun fire and also anti-tank fire from D Coy area. The attack is a complete success and the final pockets of enemy resistance are cleaned up. Some of the enemy attempting to run back are quickly rounded up by our Bren Carriers and finally the prisoners taken total: 6 officers (1 of whom died in RAP) and approximately 140 ORs. Among the officers was the CO, a German Major von Debschuetz of 15 MC Bn. Approximately 15 prisoners were wounded and treated in our RAP. Over 250 had been killed in the fighting. Our casualties: 1 killed, 5 wounded. One corporal of the MMGs died of wounds. Remarks: The identity of prisoners assumed to be 1/Inf ERS BEL 93/309. Most officers carried compasses and were apparently a specialised battalion of infantry. Unshaven and thirsty they appeared to have been fighting for some days. Among their equipment we discovered kitbags belonging to the Fourth Brigade, NZ Division, and in addition they had a number of our own vehicles. A Div Cav patrol at the same time brought in 6 prisoners and an Australian seaman whose ship the Parramatta had been sunk outside Tobruk some days previously. The successful outcome of this engagement was due in a large measure to the fact that the enemy column was distracted by our attached troops which were on the escarpment on our left. As they approached they were watching the escarpment and did not suspect troops on the flat to their left. The deep undulations in area also effectively screened from their view our stationary MT. The anti/tank gun in D Coy area did good work. Its first shot scoring a direct hit on an enemy 3-pounder setting it ablaze and the supporting fire from the escarpment did considerable havoc among the enemy in the rear of the column. D Coy captured 12 Spandaus MMGs, four 3-inch mortars, one 3-pounder gun, and a number of vehicles and motor cars, one 4-gun anti-tank was also retaken. At “last light” the Bn area is attacked once more. The unit RAP is kept occupied tending wounded prisoners and evacuating same. Evacuation was a problem because facilities the ADS were insufficient. Most of the Div medical units had been captured by the enemy. 64 all ranks went through RAP.
    2100 hrs first issue of rum to the troops. Bn resting until time of departure. It has also been a great day.
  • 4 Dec:  Midnight 28 Bn with B Coy leading in column of route commenced march back to Sollum Barracks. 0300 hrs Bn halts at point 2700 m south of Bir Zemla and in close formation rest for rest of the night. 0600 hrs reveille and preparation for advance with Bn in desert formation. Bren Carrier screens in front of column approximately 800 m. 0730 hrs there is a convoy on the sky line in this vicinity. Unsuspectingly we approach to within 1800 m when we are shelled by it. Anti-tank shells burst among our vehicles but we are lucky. Convoy wheels half left to take advantage of a shallow wadi. An anti-tank on our right flank halts and shoots at the convoy forcing it to disperse. We are rapidly drawing away from the danger. One vehicle is hit and a rear wheel is burnt out but it does not stop and the convoy remains intact and continues without halting  until reaching Pt 204 about 3 to 5 km west of Fort Capuzzo. 2/Lt Rangi Logan is slightly wounded as a result of the shelling by this enemy convoy otherwise nothing serious happens. The Bn then completes next stage of journey in column of route through Capuzzo and Fort Musaid then across country halting near aerodrome 2.4 km west of Sollum Barracks for breakfast. The IO goes ahead to contact the troops holding Sollum Barracks – The Buffs – and arrangements are immediately carried out. It is decided to affect the relief a Coy a time. C Coy is first to take up its position in its former area along escarpment overlooking Beacon Point. By “last light” the Bn has settled down in consolidated positions similar and practically in the same areas as those held previously.  During the change over today the increased movement of troops etc drew heavy shelling fire from Halfaya especially around C and A Coy areas. Two of the Buffs were killed by shell fire.
  • 5 Dec:  Normal in the morning. The main role of the Bn in this area is to patrol north along escarpment approximately to the area near the wire south of Bardia thence east to the sea and also south towards Halfaya on top of escarpment. Patrols to be active by day and by night. At noon Lt-Col Andrews VC, who is temporarily in command of 5 Brigade, made a reconnaissance of the Bn area, with a view to coordinating the fire plan of the 28 and 22 Bns. 1445 hrs light artillery fire from Halfaya. Three guns on escarpment north of track are clearly picked up. They shell C & A Coys areas. This lasts for ½ hour. There is slight movement between Halfaya and Lower Sollum. The Buffs have definitely verified the use of the area around Pier as either a ration point or an evacuation post for wounded by submarine or launch. They achieved some success with their sniper sections and suggested the use of a Light Gun to cope with the Pier problem. 1500 hrs a brief conference is held by Sgt Tainui and Sgt Martin McRae and patrol sections for a raid into Lower Sollum. Owing to the difficulty of communications with our rear HQ the evacuation of both prisoners and wounded has not been carried out yet. 2300 hrs departure of raiding patrol into Lower Sollum as per operation order
  • 6 Dec:  0400 hrs patrol encounters opposition from a building. Several Germans escape and run back along tar sealed road where they open fire with a machine gun, wounding one of the B Coy men. Patrol is forced to withdraw. They did not reach objective but nevertheless made a thorough search of the whole hospital market area, finding no one, and also cut all cable wires encountered. 0700 hrs return to Bn Hqrs carrying one wounded the only casualty. It was possible to say that some of the enemy were killed as they threw hand grenades into the building which appeared to be used as a sleeping quarters. 0830 hrs machine gun and mortar section rearrange gun positions to fit in with the fire plan for the defence of the Sollum–Musaid  line with 22 Bn  and with 23 Bn at Capuzzo. Artillery fire from Halfaya considerably lighter. 0920 hrs heavy smoke visible over Halfaya and a slight increase in motor transport movement in that area. A special memo from Capt. Love is received and read to all troops. Reference to the successful operation at Menastir was made. The successful issue of the element of surprise was stressed and the good discipline of the forward troops was mentioned. Regarding prisoners, the reminded us of the good treatment by Germans of 43 members of this Bn who were captured with B Echelon and later released; none of their personal effects had been taken. A further warning was made about captured arms, wireless, etc. A mortar post is located apparently dug into the escarpment. One officer – 2/Lt John Green – and 10 ORs arrived yesterday.
  • 7 Dec:  Enemy artillery very quiet, while our own is fairly active. Movement of a number of enemy troops from Halfaya to the flat towards the seashore is reported by C Coy. 1200 hrs distribution of first mail and parcels since leaving Baggush. Parcels provide a welcome change in rations. Japan declares war on the USA. 1700 hrs Maj Humphrey Dyer takes over command of the Bn from Capt. Love, having arrived from the LOB Camp. 1900 hrs a red lamp is seen flashing signals to the mainland from out at sea, and D Coy reports that movement of motor transport could be heard in Lower Sollum. Another report from A Coy is received. A launch or submarine has been sighted and is drawing in towards the Pier. There is a bright moon overhead and visibility is fair. The artillery is warned to “stand to”. 2230 hrs artillery open fire on Pier. Twenty rounds are fired, then more follow in quick succession. It is too dark to see the effect of the shoot. Heavy bombers flying low over the area, and one is identified as a Wellington, while heavy rumblings reverberate through the night.
  • 8 Dec:  Enemy artillery very quiet. Major Dyer makes a reconnaissance of the Bn area in the forenoon. 1330 hrs Capt. Love calls a brief conference with two sections – one from A Coy the other C Coy for a projected raid on Lower Sollum. A sand table is used to illustrate the plan of the raid. Full support from artillery and mortars, Bofors, machine guns was to be coordinated, and the Bn was to “stand to” and to assist if unnecessary. 1300 hrs the red signal lamp from sea is again flashing its message to the mainland. 2000 hrs the guns of a friendly unit shell the Pier area from their location in the direction of Sidi Baranni. 2200 hrs orders are received that the Bn is to move as per Brigade instructions. The Bn rests and makes preparations immediately. The raid on the Pier is cancelled.
  • 9 Dec:  0300 hrs the Bn with A Coy leading in column of route march out of the Barracks area, and a severe dust storm springs up. The march to the next area has commenced. Owing to the absence of motor transport we are to march on foot for the first part of the journey, bearing 280°. With the customary 10 minute halts to the hour the Bn proceeds across the aerodrome and finding the gap in the wire past Fort Musaid shake out into close formation as if mounted on vehicles and proceed towards Sidi Azeiz. “First light” we halt just short of the crossroads at Sidi Azeiz. The remainder of the Brigade is in this area also on foot. After a hot drink of tea the welcome sight of approaching vehicles is noticed and at 1000 hrs we embuss and continue advance. The motor transport that is attached to us now has just come from Tobruk and is part of the senior section of the NZ RMT Unit. In desert formation the convoy proceeds to where brigade is waiting. Direction of march along the Trig Capuzzo to Bir el Giaser turning right in this area, and changing into column of route, proceed down the escarpment to turn left on the main road to Tobruk, thence along main road to new location. There was considerable delay in changing from desert formation to column of route with the result that the near companies lost contact with the front of the column. The change onto a tar sealed road probably accounted for the increased speed at the final stages of the journey also, and it was dark when finally we halted at Si Bu Amud. A & B Coys and Bn HQ bedded down in close formation, C & D Coys did not rejoin unit till next morning. D Coy B Echelon vehicle capsized  along Tobruk Road. Casualty: Pte Raukura Ngatoro killed and two others injured.
  • 10 Dec: At “first light” IO contacted the lost elements of the Bn and brought them into dispersal area. 0800 hrs five Italian prisoners of the 86th Regimant Bolognia Division are brought in, and handed over to the Engineers at Brigade HQ. An Arab member of a caravan party is detained at Bn Hqrs but later released. C and D Coys move in and take up positions within Bn perimeter. Later in the morning a conference of all coy commanders and officers in charge of attached troops is held, wherein the role of the Brigade is finally explained. After being attached to the 4 Indian Division and 2 South African Division at different times the Brigade is now with the 13th Corps under command of General Goodwin / Austin. General role is mopping up one along advance through Adem, Acroma, Gazala. Each company was to have its own protective screen at night. In this locality which is approximately 27 km south-east of Tobruk the Bn was to patrol north to the sea thence back at an angle to the main road at dawn and at dusk. 1400 hrs word was received that the Bn was to continue its advance this night. Strength decreases when Capt. Love is evacuated to the ADS. The artillery is detached for refitting purposes. Bn rests and prepares for next move, Mobile Canteen presented by New Zealand Maori schoolchildren reaches unit. A message from the CnC to the troops of the Eighth Army was received at Bn HQ. See message
  • 11 Dec: 0200 hrs reveille and preparation for move as per operation order. 0315 hrs the 5 Brigade move together in column of route 23 Bn leading, followed by 28 Bn, and 5 Brigade HQ and 22 RMA. Line of march along road to El Adem then Acroma. One Troop Div joined the convoy later in the journey. 0700 hrs at Acroma a conference of Bn commanders was held and the Brigade separated, 23 Bn advancing along main Derna Rd, 28 Bn along track approx, bearing 281°. 1115 hrs heavy enemy artillery fire encountered, but the convoy maintaining direction and formation keeps going straight ahead. The CO's car is temporarily put out of action by shrapnel; then the convoy wheels half left to take advantage of a wadi left of Hill 209. We overrun the trenches of the Buffs. Forward companies debussed and went forward to engage enemy which was about 90 m distant. The convoy had advanced in a very bold manner and had taken the enemy by surprise, so that when the enemy rushed forward they surrendered quickly and approximately 20 prisoners were collected immediately.  The shelling was still fierce and the rear elements of the Bn were very lucky to have been missed. The Machine Gun Section was quick to appreciate the position and in a very short time they were in action shooting up concentrations of Italians further back from the first point captured. One platoon of A Coy advanced another 450 m. The engagement continued until nearly “last light” when finally more prisoners were brought in and the remainder of the enemy fell back towards Gazala. Our own artillery had also done some very good work. Final total of prisoners taken was 1123 all ranks. There were 36 officers. Identity 62 Regt Trento Division. There was an aerial battle fought overhead, 2 German bombers shot down, and a member of our Bren Carrier section rounded up 4 pilots as they landed by parachute. One pilot made an attempt to reach for his pistol and was promptly shot dead. An officer from an Indian Brigade took the other 3 prisoners away. Much captured equipment was discovered there being anti-tank guns, 75 mm French guns and machine guns. Casualties:  5 killed, 11 wounded.
  • 12 Dec: The unit’s strength for the week ended, excluding officers, was 747 ORs (incl. 5 attached). 6 reinforcements were still required to bring the Battalion to full strength.  There were 23 officers 3 of whom were attached. 9 more were required. The Bn is entrenched around Point 201. Bn facing west on a front of approximately 1800 m.  B Echelon was 3600 m east in vicinity of Bu Amaia, although in the morning it joined the Bn. Unit RAP, which was fairly busy with our wounded and Italian wounded was safely ensconced in a dry water well at Bu Amaia. 1115 hrs German Stuka dive bombers subjected Bn area to a minor Blitz. No material damage, but casualties were two ORs killed and Sgt Turnbull attached fitter to the Bn wounded. This attack by bombers was the first experienced in this campaign. A brief memorial service was conducted by Chaplain Capt. Kahi Harawira earlier in the morning.
    1330 hrs Bn continues advance as per movement order. 1400 hrs IO with RAP 3-ton truck and Signal section 8-cwt truck follow in the wake of the Bn.  Difficulty was experienced in the evacuation of the wounded. A minefield was discovered this morning when a Bren carrier of the 22 Bn that was in the convoy with 5 Brigade was blown up. It was fortunate for the Bn that when the shelling commenced, it kept on going straight ahead rather than wheeling at that point as it would surely have passed over the minefield. The Bn move to the next area was completed just before “last light”. Slight shelling from the enemy as Bn approached this area, but no casualties. The line of advance to this location was clearly defined by enemy tracks and odd bits of equipment thrown away in their haste to reach the safety of the Gazala defences.
  • 13 Dec: 0800 hrs the advance is continued with the Bn with drawn up into two wings, as per movement order. Wing A under command of Capt. Rangi Royal and Wing B under Capt. Charles Bennett. 0840 hrs heavy shelling compels the convoy to halt, having travelled 3600 m from Trig 182. A reconnaissance of the enemy position was to be carried out; the 22 Bn on our left flank was planning an attack and in the meantime the Bn was to debuss and consolidate. C Coy on left flank with its HQ at Pt 185, B & A Coy south of C Coy on right in a wadi, D Coy rear of C CoyBn facing west on a frontage of approx, 4500 m. 1000 hrs the Bn is still subject to shell fire and A & B Coy areas are swept by machine gun fire and mortar shells. A C Coy 3-ton truck is hit by an anti-tank shell; no casualties. The enemy positions on Pt 181 are clearly visible with troops moving about in the area. No attack is carried out today. Coy Commanders conference before “last light”. The artillery from the 5 Field Regiment reports back today with the reassuring news that they have plenty of ammunition.  An attack is planned, and the Bn rests until zero hour of the assault preconceived for the capture of Pt 181.
  • 14 Dec:  0300 hrs our own artillery commences a heavy barrage on Pt 181; the attack has already started, with C Coy on left flank and B & A moving up on the right. D Coy is to the left of C Coy and was to follow through together. 0315 hrs artillery ceased fire. 0320 hrs the shouting of the leading infantry sections could be distinctly heard as they marched forward with fixed bayonets, with the enemy opening fire with machine guns, mortars, and anti-tank fire. Enemy resistance is successfully neutralised although at 0720 hrs more shelling of the area around Pt 181 takes place. C & D Coys consolidate just past the first line of trenches captured. B Coy has gone forward of C & D by 550 m establishing its HQ among the ruins south-west of Pt 181 until one platoon isolated another 250 or 350 m west. A Coy on the right makes use of enemy defences on the flat south of Pt 181. The attack was a success. Prisoners taken totalled 382 all ranks. Approximately 18 officers one of whom was a colonel. Identity 36 Regt., Pavia Division. French guns, mortars, anti-tank guns, and machine guns were taken and the trench system of defences was good. It resembled the Tobruk system. It was well camouflaged. Our casualties were 3 killed and 27 all ranks wounded. Among those wounded was Capt. Royal, 2/Lt Wally Wordley, 2/Lt Don Stewart, and Lt Ben Porter. The latter, however, remained with the unit. 1000 hrs 27 enemy aircraft passed overhead flying east.
    1100 hrs 18 Stuka Dive Bombers flying west attack Brigade HQ which was 4500 m east of our positions, dropping several bombs. Casualties slight. This formation then flew very low over Bn area but did not drop any bombs. Pt 181 was also subjected to very heavy shell fire from enemy in defences approx. 1.6 km north west, while an enemy machine gun kept sweeping the area around Pt 181 with heavy fire. Direction of fire - west. Air activity in this region noticeably greater, but despite the presence of enemy planes our own air force is much in evidence. Keeping vigilant watch over the land forces.  A Tomahawk plane was forced down not far from B Coy area, and one of our Bren carriers dashed forward and brought back the South African pilot officer safely into our lines. Enemy locations were not distant at “M” and at Pt 154 and Pt 152. Numbers of guns could be seen, and columns of transport were continually raising clouds of dust as they moved backwards and forwards towards Gazala. It was most apparent that this area strongly held by enemy forces probably all Italians with a few Germans as a German officer had been killed that morning. A Bren Carrier patrol under command of 2/Lt Jack Reedy towards “last light” was fired upon from strong positions north of Pt 181 in vicinity of Pt 152. We learn today a Polish Brigade is cooperating in this advance in a wedge-like movement between ourselves and the 22 Bn. Heavy shelling is still experienced around Pt 181 from enemy defences above Gazala. C Coy using Italian mortars shell positions of enemy at maximum range.
  • 15 Dec: Within Bn area there is still considerable shelling from both sides. Our artillery is very active, and a daylight assault is planned. See movement order.  A Coy to take Pt 154, C Coy Pt 152, D Coy to advance along escarpment to “M” and if possible to give supporting fire to A & C Coys advance on flat.  B Coy was to remain in reserve. Artillery support was to be synchronized with attack and could also be called upon by signals if required. At approx. 1300 hrs 2/Lt Green was killed by a shell at Pt 181. D Coy was to relieve B Coy. 1500 hrs attack commenced. C Coy & A Coy advancing along flat to respective objectives. Very open formation was adopted 9 m between men. D Coy along escarpment. Severe opposition was encountered throughout. A & D Coys were finally successful and C after taking the first line were forced to the ground by very heavy machine gun and mortar fire. No. 10 & 11 platoons of B Coy then went forward to assist C Coy. No. 11 Platoon under command of 2/Lt Waipaina Awarau went straight into the enemy positions on C Coy's left flank capturing those trenches with a number of prisoners who surrendered. The other trenches then, on seeing part of their line surrender, also lost heart allowing C Coy to advance and finally mop up the position. By “last light” the whole operation was successfully completed, and prisoners were being marched back to Bn Hqrs. Prisoners total 181 all ranks. Identity – Brescia Division, among them a major, one captain and four lieutenants. Casualties:  10 ORs killed, 37 wounded all ranks. 2/Lt Jack Reedy and 2/Lt Pine Taiapa were wounded. Owing to a shortage of officers 2/Lt Taiapa was detached from his position as Pioneer Platoon commander to lead a platoon of C Coy. 2/Lt Ted Pohio – the  unit TO – was in command of No. 10 Platoon B Coy. The Polish Brigade on our left flank attacked this day also, and their right flank elements contacted D Coy which had reached their objective at Carmuset Er Regem. A Coy had lost rather heavily and reinforcements were necessary if they were to push further forward.
  • 16 Dec:  A Coy received orders to continue its advance and objective was Point 137. 22 Bn had that night sent up their D Coy to assist A Coy. The operation against Pt 137 was one platoon A Coy and one platoon B Coy assisting on right flank. D Coy of 22 Bn was to move forward also. At “first light” the advance commenced and reached a point approx. 1100 m from Pt 154. At this point the opposition proved too great and casualties were heavy, the enemy shooting mortars, machine guns, and anti-tank shells among the advancing troops. Fourteen men, mostly A Coy's Platoon, were killed and the 22 Bn lost 2 killed. Wounded 23, mostly A Bn. 2/Lt Mervyn Mitchell of Pahiatua commanding A Coy's platoon was wounded. With the advance at a standstill consolidation followed and it was difficult work as the ground was very rocky, however, they held their position despite heavy shelling throughout that day. See secret order.
    D Coy withdrew from the escarpment reached yesterday so it was a very exposed face the Poles in any case were there. C Coy returned to Pt 181 and thence extended a line north east along flat forward of Bn Hqrs. Information was received from Brigade that an Indian Brigade several miles on our left Brigade flank were pushing ahead towards the main road to Derna in rear of Gazala area. D Coy of 22 Bn withdrew this night and returned to its own area. A & B Coys later withdrew, B remaining at Pt 152.
  • 17 Dec: Gazala area this morning is very quiet and as daylight makes observation possible we discover that the enemy has evacuated the whole Gazala region. The Poles continue their advance consolidating positions along escarpment overlooking the Gazala aerodrome area. 1000 hrs a memorial service was conducted by the Chaplain Capt. Harawira where 11 of A Coy's men were buried. 1300 hrs the Battalion with attached troops move out of the Gazala area in desert formation. The Eighth Army was to be withdrawn, and it appears that we have completed our bit in the fighting for the re-conquest of Cyrenaica. Towards “last light” the Bn halts at Pt 191 facing west with D & B Coys forward and A & C Coys in rear. Coys dig in and rest.
  • 18 Dec: An easy day for the troops. The transport section of Motor Company leaves at 0900 hrs. The Bn is to wait in this location until further transport arrives to take us back to Base. Casualty today: one officer of the attached anti-tank battery who died of wounds accidentally. The field returns for the week stated there were 16 officers with the unit, 3 of whom were attached. 16 more officers were required.
  • 19 Dec: A brief conference in the morning of company commanders and officers in charge of various sections within the Bn. Troops are to be given water for bathing and shaving where possible and the cleaning of all weapons and maintenance of vehicles to be carried out. Otherwise normal routine. Return of YMCA unit today and a free issue of fruit and chocolates is made. Separated since the commencement of hostilities at Fort Capuzzo it is only today that they have been able to catch up with the Battalion. They also had their share stalled by enemy forces at every stage of their journey. The Pioneer Platoon since the capture of Pt 181 has been detailed to assist the Engineers in the salvage tasks within the area. There is a motley collection of vehicles within the Bn. D Coy has a light Italian tank, there are several trucks. Coy has a diesel driven heavy lorry. Some members of the Bn visit the Gazala battlefield. Chaplain Capt. Harawira conducts a brief memorial service. 
  • 20 Dec: The Bn is still within this location resting, and everything is normal. The unit’s strength for the week ended, excluding officers, was 483 ORs. 270 reinforcements were still required to bring the Bn to full strength. 
  • 21 Dec: Normal routine. 0715 Roman Catholics attend service at Brigade HQ. 100 hrs church service conducted by Chaplain Capt. Harawira in B Coy area.The Bofors and Anti-Tank Platoon stand to during church service and slit trenches had been dug previously at church service area as a further precautionary measure. A special tribute was paid to our comrades who had given their lives for the allied cause. 1400 hrs the LO and IO report to 5 Brigade HQ for conference with other Brigade officers concerning war history records. 1500 hrs slight air activity over Gazala area. Several flares dropped but there is no bombing.
  • 22 Dec: Normal routine and good news, we are to move tomorrow. One casualty, a medical corporal injured by a booby trap in an Italian trench
  • 23 Dec: 0600 hrs reveille and transport arrives at 0800 hrs. 5 Brigade with 28 Bn moves to new area route via Acroma. 0845 hrs Bn in desert formation with A & B Coys forward and C & D rear Bn Hqrs & HQ Coy in centre commence return journey. As we leave the Gazala area it begins to rain. The convoy halts each hour and just before reaching Acroma formation changes to column of route as we are to follow the main road through El Adem. Lunch 1.6 km east of Acroma. 1500 hrs reached dispersal area and debussed at Bir el Garaa. Bn digs in here and rests. 2/Lt Ormsby replaces 2/Lt Paki West as LO, the latter returning to D Coy.
  • 24 Dec: There is no move today. Coys make preparation for Christmas by making bivouacs as comfortable as possible. Some members of the Bn go to Tobruk which is about 19 km distant. 17 ORs discharged from a hospital at Tobruk rejoins the Bn this day.
  • 25 Dec: Normal routine. 1000hrs a Christmas service was held in Bn Hqrs lines. It was followed by Holy Communion. The Roman Catholics attend Mass earlier in the morning at Brigade HQ 400 m east of this area. The Brigade Commander and the Brigade IO attend divine service. We thank the chaplain Capt. Harawira for his inspiring address. Even though all realised that the amenities normally available on a Christmas Day were absent, those physical deficiencies were not to be compared with the gifts of the spiritual. The subconscious mind in making this Christmas a happy one, and one of thanksgiving, and gratefulness was a comfort to the troops, which made our Christmas Day in the desert a cheerful one.
    1200 hrs lunch. The normally hard ration is augmented by a supply of fresh bread and tinned fruit, the fruit being the gift of the YMCA.  The projected incursions to Tobruk were cancelled as word is received that we are to move this afternoon.  1330 hrs 5 Brigade with 28 Bn moves to next area. Line of march through Bit el Gubi thence along the Trig el Abd desert road towards the frontier. Order of march A-B-Bn Hqrs-HQ-C-D Coys. Formation - column of route. Owing to some delay at commencement of march, the convoy did not halt until 1800 hrs, having travelled about 64 km. At Bivouac area the Bn shook out into close formation for the night. Several army and RAF convoys were passed en route going forward. It is dark by the time the Bn settles in and the second Christmas Day spent by the unit overseas is at an end.
  • 26 Dec: 0800 hrs continuation of march to Bir el Thalatha thence to railhead. 0930 hrs convoy in column of route passes an information post – Bit Gibni. 1030 hrs we reach the frontier wire, and once more we are back on Egyptian soil. A dust storm, which hampers observation of forward elements of the column, suddenly spring up. It is so severe and prolonged that that the convoy breaks up while on the move, and when the final halt of the day is called for we find that some sections of the Bn are not with the unit.
  • 27 Dec: Yesterday’s sandstorm had disorganised the greater part of the Brigade formation but by 1500 hrs this day the majority were collected together, and the 28 Bn reform at Bir el Thalatha . 1700 hrs NZ mail in the form of parcels and paper are received here. At last light a conference of company commanders is held.
  • 28 Dec: The unit’s strength for the week ended, excluding officers, was 519 ORs (incl. 3 attached). 234 reinforcements were still required to bring the Battalion to full strength.  There were 27 officers with the unit, 3 of whom were attached. 5 more were required. In continuation of the return to camp at Baggush the Bn is divided into two sections – the train party with Capt. Charles Bennett in charge and the road party which includes the CO. 0730 hrs the advance party of the personnel moving by train departs for the railhead which is approximately 16 km away.  The road party leaves after lunch, and the remainder of the Battalion is finally collected by transport about 1430 hrs and proceeds to railhead, where the Bn shakes out into open formation and bed down for the night. The railway line is barely 400 m distant, and in this are there are large numbers of troops – Greek and Indians mingling with New Zealanders and English.
  • 29 Dec: 0600 hrs reveille. 0715 hrs the Bn in column of route marches to the nearby railway siding, and at 1000 hrs entrain for the final stage of the return journey to base. 1300 hrs halt at “Charing Cross” where a hot lunch is cooked for all the troops on the train by a local unit. 2030 hrs arrival at Sidi Haneish Station and the Bn detrain. Transport members of the LOB personnel await us and unit transport conveys the troops to Bn location. Coys are compelled to shake out within the area formerly held by HQ Coy and Bn Hqrs. A South African unit is occupying part of the area. After a hot meal the Bn beds down for the night. The return journey from Libya is complete.
  • 30 Dec: 0700 hrs reveille. The Bn is kept busy today cleaning weapons and settling in. Captured enemy weapons are collected and sent to Coy QM stores. A kit inspection is carried out. The Bn area is cleaned up. Heavy rains have made a difference as the vegetation now is quite green. Pay is issued to the troops. The YMCA is still in its old position. 15 officers marched into Bn and 36 ORs. The weather is cold with showers of rain adding to the discomfiture of living bivouacs.
  • 31 Dec: Normal routine. Two parcels of gifts to each are issued to the troops and preparations are under way for a special New Year’s dinner. A special memo from Bn Hqrs reads: Copy of cablegram to OC unit from P.K. Paikea MP. “On behalf of the united tribes of New Zealand I send a message of Xmas greetings to yourself and the Bn, wishing you and wounded men a speedy recovery. Arohanui.” 1900 hrs a South African mobile cinema unit visited the Brigade area screening a film in the 22 Bn area. New Years Eve is celebrated in the "Box" by much realistic fireworks displayed with captured enemy flare pistols and light mortar fire.


[1] Monty Soutar, Nga Tama Toa:  the price of citizenship, David Bateman Ltd, Auckland, pp. 192–201.


Archives New Zealand = Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga
Ref:  28 NZ (Māori) Battalion Diary, WAII 1 1664 DA 68/1/24 

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