Māori Battalion diary - February 1942


Like the previous month February was spent re-equipping and training, the Battalion regaining its vitality. Regular leave was instituted and the soldiers explored the highlights and low life of places like Cairo  It was during this period that the new CO Lt-Col Dyer, received another request to hand over any enemy equipment that the Battalion might still be holding. He compromised by delivering up less than what the unit really had.[1]

At the beginning of February the Battalion had 34 officers plus the doctor and padre who were attached:

  • Temporary Lt-Colonel: Humphrey Dyer
  • Captains: Tiwha Bennett, Charles Bennett, Chris Sorrenson, Ben Porter, Terry Gilroy, Gordon Ormond, Reta Keiha
  • Lieutenant/Temporary Captains: Rangi Logan, Jim Tuhiwai
  • Lieutenants: Peta Awatere, H. T. Maloney, Ruhi Pene, Henry Toka
  • Second Lieutenants: Wai Awarau, Jim Henare, Walton Haig, Ted Hayward, Syd Jackson, Jim Matehaere, A. E. (Duncan) McRae, Ted Morgan, Reg Mariu, Ben Ropata, Tony Tikao-Barrett, Matt Swainson, Kuru Waaka, George Marsden, Meta Francis, Peter Ornberg, William Vercoe, Roy Te Punga, Rangi Tutaki, Jim Aperahama
  •  Attached: Capt. T. McDonald (RMO), Capt. Kahi Harawira (unit padre).


  • 1 Feb: Normal routine with church parades. 1300 hrs a small percentage from HQ Coy proceed to Ismailia on afternoon leave.
  • 2 Feb: Normal routine as per syllabus. A special intelligence course commenced today. 2/Lt Ace Wood marched in as adjutant.
  • 3 Feb: Normal routine as per syllabus.
  • 4 Feb: Battalion exercise in advance, attack and consolidation, several objectives having been selected in an area along the range of hills approximately 1 ½ (2.4kms) miles south-west of Geneifa Station. The Battalion proceeded in MTs from the camp area to the debussing point on the flat opposite the Geneifa Station, from whence the Battalion in two separate columns advanced in battle formation carrying out the exercise as per operation order. 1430 hrs return to camp commenced, companies marching down off the ridge to embussing point. 1200 hrs Battalion ceases to be attached to 5 Brigade and becomes attached to 4 Brigade.
  • 5 Feb: 0545 hrs the usual percentage of leave personnel proceed on 7 days leave. Normal routine excepting that the training laid down for 6 Feb is carried out this day. Lt H. T. Maloney transferred as LO to 4 Infantry Brigade and marched into 28 Battalion again.
  • 6 Feb: Syllabus originally set down for yesterday is adhered to, the Coys spending the day on the range. The mobile YMCA Canteen accompanied the Battalion to the range.
  • 7 Feb: Normal routine as per syllabus, with a slight alteration - at 1100 hrs a lecture was delivered by Lt-Col Humphrey Dyer on recent exercises undertaken by the unit, and an instructive talk on methods of dealing with tanks.
  • 8 Feb: Normal routine with the usual divine services. A, B, C Coys attend a shower parade. 1045 hrs members of the unit requiring Tet Prop and TAB inoculations are injected for same. 1900 hrs The Kiwi Concert Party entertains 4 Brigade in the Kabrit cinema hall.
  • 9 Feb: 0630 hrs reveille. Normal routine slightly modified as many of those inoculated yesterday are excused duty for 24 hours. D and HQ Coys attend shower parade. Lt Peter Awatere, who had been detached as 5 Brigade IO, marched back into the unit and commenced a special syllabus of training for the newly formed Composite Engineering Platoon consisting of 6 ORs from each of the rifle companies, and 14 ORs from HQ Coy.
  • 10 Feb: Normal routine as per syllabus. Capt. Fred Baker marched into unit and is appointed OC HQ Coy.
  • 11 Feb: 0900 hrs Alteration in normal routine as per syllabus takes place when the Brigade IO Capt. J. H. Beale delivers a lecture on the art played by the 4th and 6th Brigades during the recent campaign in Libya. 1100 hrs Lt-Col Humphrey Dyer lectures the Battalion on fighting principles, stressing the importance of a thorough grounding in elementary training, and quoting as examples the lessons learnt in Libya.
  • 12 Feb: Normal routine as per syllabus. The Battalion proceeded on exercises in approach, march and assault. 0830 hrs left camp area by route march to the field of operations, which was situated approximately 15 miles from Kabrit in the vicinity of the Geneifa-Suez-Cairo roads. At night consolidation followed, and patrols were active. Another percentage for 7-days leave marched out from unit.
  • 13 Feb: Normal routine as per syllabus, the Battalion exercising in defence and counter-attack. 1430 hrs arrival back at camp after spending an instructive period in the field. The return was done in MTs. 1830 hrs YMCA Mobile Cinema Unit screened the film “Even-Song” within the unit area.
  • 14 Feb: Normal routine as per syllabus. The GOC Maj-Gen. Sir Bernard Freyberg VC etc, met the officers of the Battalion at afternoon tea. The Battalion football team beat 4th Field Ambulance team 9 points to nil.
  • 15 Feb: Normal routine and usual divine services.
  • 16 Feb: Training syllabus slightly changed when the Battalion parade set down in the first period was cancelled, and the whole of the forenoon was taken up by the inspection of the Battalion by the Brigadier of 4 Brigade. In the afternoon normal routine continued as per training syllabus. Dental inspection for men ex Libya also carried out. Capt. R.C. Shaw-Thompson is attached to the unit as Dental Officer. Lt Jack Ormsby also marches in from the reinforcements.
  • 17 Feb: Normal routine as per syllabus. The Field Engineering Demonstration by the Composite Platoon trained by Lt Awatere was staged in two parts. Part 1 consisted of a series of brief talks on various types of mines, and explosives, while part 2 was the demonstration in laying and lifting a minefield, and the use of explosives, and the compressor for the rapid digging in of section posts. 0830 hrs a letter from Lt-Col Dittmer was read to the troops on Battalion parade.
  • 18 Feb: Normal routine as per syllabus. Companys proceed to range at Geneifa for firing practice.
  • 19 Feb: Normal routine as per syllabus. In the afternoon the companies route march to Kabrit Point and rowing exercises take place. 1100 hrs Capt. Sorrenson lectures the Battalion in the cinema hall on current affairs dealing mainly with the Far Eastern situation. A small percentage of the Battalion proceed on 7-days leave.
  • 20 Feb: Normal routine as per syllabus.
  • 21 Feb: Normal routine as per syllabus. The unit’s strength excluding officers was 698 ORs (5 of whom were attached). The total number of officers was 40 (6 of whom were attached). 76 ORs and 2 officers were still required to bring the Battalion to full strength.
  • 22 Feb: Divine service held in the Kabrit cinema hall.
  • 23 Feb: 0500 hrs advance party for Battalion consisting of Capt. Baker, the LO – Lt Maloney and RQMSWOII Pat Priestly and two batmen left camp to go to new Battalion area. Normal routine as per syllabus. The adjutant – 2/Lt Wood, the 2IC D Coy – Capt. Gordon Ormond, the IO. 2/Lt Roy Te Punga and the Signals Officer – 2/Lt Mariu and platoon commander – 2/Lt Jim Henare of A Coy, Cpl W. Merriman, Ptes 25920 G. McDonald, 25933 G. Marunui, 62707 P. Robson, 62504 H. Elkington proceed on special exercise with 4 Brigade.
  • 24 Feb: Normal routine as per syllabus. C and D Coys route march of approximately 20 miles and swimming in the Suez Canal en route.
  • 25 Feb: Normal routine as per syllabus. A and B Coys route march. 1330 hrs Reinforcements marched in from Composite Training Depot – ic party was 2/Lt William Vercoe with 70 other ranks.
  • 26 Feb: Normal routine as per syllabus. A small percentage of leave personnel departs for Cairo and Alexandria. 1100 hrs Capt. Sorrensen in the cinema hall lectures to the Battalion on Current Affairs dealing especially with the Economic War – and the Blockade System. 1600 hrs a special lecture was delivered to the Brigade by the Brigadier in the cinema hall, and was mainly on security and the general situation and possible future role of the NZ Division. 2000 hrs Tattoo. As the unit was to exercise in night marching and dawn attack. Midnight – reveille and after a hot cup of tea Companies off to exercise area approximately 8 miles from the camp grounds in the high country vicinity of Geneifa Station. B Coy leading followed by Coy then C and A Coys.
  • 27 Feb: 0115 hrs Coys move off. 0400 hrs Coys move off from assembly point. 0500 hrs Coys cross the starting line. Coys attack and commence to consolidate.  The morning is spent in digging in of respective company positions, including the laying down of minefields approximately 300 yards long and 50 yards wide, as per syllabus. Companies commence the march back to Camp Area. 1500 hrs company commanders’ conference as a warning order is received of the proposed move from this area. Another conference is held in the officer’s mess later in the afternoon. The Battalion is preparing the packing of all equipment.
  • 28 Feb: Owing to the preparations for move to new area the training is slightly modified. Surplus kits, etc are sent back to Base Camp Maadi and there is much activity in the way of packing. Otherwise normal routine.

See individuals mentioned in Routine Orders for February 1942.


Archives New Zealand = Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga
28 NZ (Māori) Battalion Diary, WAII 1 1664 DA 68/1/26 


[1] Cody, p. 180; Nga Tama Toa, p. 211.


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