Māori Battalion diary - July 1943


The Battalion enjoyed another month at Maadi Camp in Egypt with leave to Cairo. Lt-Col Reta Keiha introduced a new training syllabus for the men and piquet duty was carried out in Cairo each evening. The Ruapehu Furlough Draft reached New Zealand on 12 July. To replace the Battalion members who had gone home as part of the draft, almost two hundred men from the Ninth Reinforcements, who had arrived in Egypt in May, joined the unit. Returning wounded also brought the unit numbers back up. Cricket, tennis and swimming competitions were held between units in the Battalion and against other units within 5 Brigade. The Battalion "excelled in the divisional swimmming championships on the 31st, when it finished first in eight events and came second in the ninth."[1]

At the beginning of July the Battalion had only 24 officers plus the doctor and YMCA driver of Te Rau Aroha canteen truck – the latter two being attached to the unit.  Padre Tunoa Wanoa who had taken ill on his way back from Tunisia returned to the Battalion in the last week of the month.

  • Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel: Reta Keiha (CO)
  • Major: Russell Young (Bn 2ic), Chris Sorrensen
  • Captains: Peta Awatere, Jim Matehaere, Jim Henare, Jack Reedy (Adjutant), Syd Jackson, Tutu Wirepa
  • Temporary Captains: Ted Hayward, Harry Lambert, Peter Ornberg, Monty Wikiriwhi
  • Lieutenants: Reg Mariu, Herbert Marsden, Ted Pohio, Matt Swainson,
  • Second Lieutenants: Richie Davis, Hoani Lawson, George Katene, George McDonald, Harry Mackey, Jerry Smith, John (H.M.) Tawhai
  • Attached: Capt. Cam, D’Arcy (RMO), Mr Charlie Bennett (YMCA)


  • 1 July, Thurs routine as per RO No 36.1400 hrs a beer issue of one and a third bottles was made available. 1800 hrs nightly piquet to Cairo consisting of 12 ORs, one sergeant and one officer (2/Lt George McDonald) left Battalion HQ to report to Divisional Provost HQ. Weather: fine and very warm.
  • 2 July, Fri routine as per ROs No 37. As part of the Battalion is still on leave and the remainder in camp resting, there is nothing of importance to report today. Weather: fine and clear.
  • 3 July, Sat Battalion is still taking it easy today and the routine is as per RO No 38. The second batch of 14 days’ leave personnel returned to camp by 2200 hrs while the Bren Carrier personnel left for 14 days’ leave at 1100 hrs. Weather: fine and hot.
  • 4 July, Sun routine for today is as in RO No 39. 0830 hrs A Battalion C of E service was held in the Sergeants’ Mess and Padre W Rangi ably officiated. 1200 hrs Lunch. 1330 hrs local leave to Cairo. 1730 hrs Tea. 1800 hrs Cairo Piquet under Lt George Katene go on leave. Weather:- Fine but uncomfortably warm. T/Capt. Monty Wikiriwhi collected his DSO ribbon from 2 Echelon this morning.
  • 5 July, Mon routine for today as per ROs No 39. 0845 hrs Maj. Russell Young called a Battalion muster parade at which he lectured the men on the discipline and general behaviour whilst on leave in Cairo. 0930 hrs to 1200 hrs complete kit inspection. 1215 hrs Lunch. All Jerricans were returned to QM stores and all grenades were also collected and handed in to the RSM 1800 hrs tea. Piquet for Cairo leave, 2/Lt Davis in command. 2200 hrs the CO, Maj. Chris Sorenson, Capt. Peta Awatere and T/Capt. Wikiriwhi report back to Battalion from 14 days’ leave. Weather: fine and warm.
  • 6 July, Tues routine as per ROs No 40. 0830 hrs party of 30 from HQ Coy marched over to the range for the purposes of zeroing rifles. Lt Ted Pohio i/c party. 0930 hrs CO’s orderly room. 1015 hrs 2 i/c inspects Battalion lines. 1215 hrs lunch. 1800 hrs tea. Cairo piquet leave and return at 2330 hrs. Weather: dull and cloudy in the early morning but by 0800 hrs it had cleared. Remainder of the day was fine and warm. A re-arrangement of Battalion officers was brought into effect today see Appendix G, Officer Appointments.
  • 7 July, Wed Battalion officers paraded at 0830 hrs on Brigade parade ground and were marched  over to the Pall Mall to attend an address by the GOC Maj. Gen. Inglis DSO and Bar. The remainder of the Battalion carried out the routine set in RO No 41. 1015 hrs 2 i/c’s inspection. 1100 hrs 2i/c’s conference with Coy 2 i/c’s. 1400 hrs swimming parties leave for Maadi baths in 3-tonners and return at 1700 hrs. Weather: bright and sunny.
  • 8 July, Thurs 0630 hrs reveille. 0730 hrs breakfast. 0800 hrs the following Battalion personnel reported to Battalion HQ as blood donors and were conveyed by truck to the 23 Field Ambulance (Hospital). They returned at 0930 hrs: 68043 Pte Wallace Huriwai, 62957 Pte Jerry Mariu, 65476 Pte Panapa Ratahi, 65430 Pte Harold Ruha, 26081 Pte Rangi Walters and 26088 Pte Puru AW. 0930 hrs return of cricketers for the 2 i/c.  0900 hrs court of enquiry was held in Sergeants’ Mess  and Lt. Katene (MM) presided. 1015 hrs 2 i/c’s inspection of Battalion lines. 1800 hrs tea. Cairo piquet, under Lt. Katene, leave and returned at midnight. The routine for today was set out in RO No 42. Weather: fine and hot.
  • 9 July, Fri The Battalion routine for today is set down in RO No. 43 but at 0830 hrs there was a Battalion muster parade on the Battalion Parade ground forward of the RAP. Short talk by CO Lt. Col Reta Keiha. He outlined the training programme for the next two or three months. 0930 hrs pay parade. 1000 hrs CO’s orderly room Lt. Katene presiding. 1100 hrs adjutants’ conference at Brigade T/Capt. Wikiriwhi represented the Battalion in the absence of Capt. Jack Reedy, the adjutant, who was attending a course. 1200 hrs Lunch.1800 hrs Tea. Cairo Piquet under 2/Lt George McDonald leave Battalion HQs and after duty report back at midnight. Weather: dull and overcast during the early morning but after breakfast it turned fine and hot as usual.
  • 10 July, Sat routine for today is as RO No 44. 0800 hrs June war diary delivered to archivist per “I” Sergeant. 0845 hrs ten 3-tonners with the Transport Officer Capt. Ted Pohio left Battalion HQ for Mena to pick up reinforcements for the Battalion. 0830 hrs COs’ conference at Battalion HQ with Coy Commanders dealing mostly with the posting and drafting of reinforcements. 0900 hrs deficiency issue of clothing etc. 1130 hrs reinforcements from Mena arrive and were posted to their respective companies – 184 ORs and 11 officers. The officers were posted as follows: - (all are 2nd Lieutenants) Lou Paul to A Coy, Clarence Balzer and Henry Northcroft B Coy, Everard Jackson and George Tamahori to C Coy, Riki Smith and Hoppy Hetet to D Coy, while Jackie Pile and Steve Urlich went to HQ Coy and Pango Munro was made Sports, Messing and PAD Officer. Weather: dry and very warm.
  • 11 July,Sun Routine as per RO No. 45.  0900 hrs Roman Catholic Church parade at Shafto’s cinema.0930 hrs Church of England service in Sergeants’ Mess. Padre Rangi officiated. Holy Communion was held immediately afterwards. For this service a party from Puttick Camp under the Command of Maj. Rangi Logan arrived at Battalion HQ at 0900 hrs and left again at 1100 hrs. 1215 hrs lunch. 1330 hrs local leave personnel paraded, inspected and despatched in two 3-tonners for Cairo. 1730 hrs tea. Piquet for Cairo leave with 2/Lt McDonald in charge. Weather: as usual fine and warm.
  • 12 July, Mon Battalion began training in earnest and according to the syllabus prepared by the CO which was released to the Coys last Thursday at 1600 hrs. Battalion routine apart from the training syllabus is set down in RO No. 45. Weather: fine. The syllabus was rearranged this morning. Route marching before breakfast to catch the cooler part of the day while SAT and foot drill took up the rest of the morning. 1015-1030 hrs tea break. 1015 hrs 2 i/c’s inspection of Battalion lines. 1100 hrs CO’s orderly room. Marked maps of Maadi training area was issued to Coy Commanders. 1300 hrs lunch. 1430 hrs the Intelligence Officer 2/Lt Moana Raureti and the Intelligence Sergeant leave to recce the area allotted to 5th Infantry Brigade for training purposes. 1400-1500 hrs compulsory siesta period. 1500-1630 hrs recreation.
  • 13 July, Tues routine as per RO No 46 and training as per syllabus. 0915 hrs the CO, 2 i/c and Intelligence Sergeant leave to recce the Brigade training area. 1000 hrs CO’s party return to Battalion. 1015-1030 hrs tea. 1100 hrs 2 i/c in conference with Coy 2 i/cs. 1300 hrs lunch. 1500 hrs three 3-tonners convey swimming personnel to baths and return at 1630 hrs. 1800 hrs tea. Cairo Piquet with 2/Lt Mackey i/c leave Battalion HQ. 1930 hrs CO in conference with all Battalion officers. 200 hrs an  ENSA revue opens at the El Djem open air amphitheatre. 2030 hrs Battalion leave on a desert route march and return back at 2230 hrs when a hot cup of tea is served. Weather: cloudy in the morning but it cleared at 0700 hrs and we had the usual fine day.
  • 14 July, Wed Routine as per RO No 47 and training as set out in syllabus excepting that route march set down for the last two periods of the day this morning was carried out from 0600 to 0730 hrs and vice versa. 0930 hrs CO’s orderly room. 1015 hrs 2 i/c’s inspection of Battalion lines. 1100 hrs beer issue of one bottle per man was made available, costing 4 piastres each. Also reinforcements from Mena arrived at Battalion HQ and were posted to their respective Coys. Altogether a total of 37 ORs arrived but most of them were men who had been wounded during some of the Battalion’s previous campaigns. 0900 hrs-1200 hrs, No.1 Platoon under command of Signals Officer 2/Lt McDonald went out on Bren Carriers testing the new MK II 38 W/S, eight of which had been issued to the Battalion on the 23 June 1943. 1300 hrs lunch. 1500-1600 hrs Swimming and recreation. 1800 hrs tea. Piquet to Cairo as usual. 2000 hrs RAMC concert party showing in El Djem.
  • 15 July, Thurs Routine as per RO No 48 and training as per syllabus. 1230 hrs At Battalion parade Lt-Col Keiha gave a very forceful talk to all ranks on the general behaviour of the boys while on leave in and around Cairo. 1800 hrs usual nightly Cairo piquet with 2/Lt Hetet i/c. Leave for Battalion HQ. 2000 hrs mobile picture showed in El Djem. This morning No. 1 Platoon HQ Coy were out on the range zeroing rifles. Weather: fine.
  • 16 July, Fri training for the Battalion today is as set down in syllabus and the usual routine as per RO No 49. 0830 hrs IO and I Sergeant leave to attend lecture on air photography at School of Instruction. 1100 hrs Battalion order received re officers’ dress while in camp and on leave. 1100 hrs pay parade. Party from HQ Coy on the range zeroing rifles. 1330 hrs leave personnel fall in and inspected and conveyed to town in trucks. 1400–1500 hrs siesta. 1500–1600 hrs recreation. Battalion officers’ cricket team played a team of Brigade officers and after a close game were beaten by nine runs. Tennis trials were also held this afternoon. 1800 hrs tea. Piquet for Cairo under 2/Lt Davis leave. Capt Reg Mariu rejoined the unit having been in hospital. Weather: as usual, dry and warm.
  • 17 July, Sat Routine as per RO No 50 and training as per Syllabus No. 2. 0700–0800 hrs Battalion HQ and HQ Coy were dentally inspected, while the rest of the Coys were put through from 0900–1100 hrs. 1000 hrs 20 athletes were conveyed to the Training Depot at Mena to take part in athletic sports trials for the Division athletic meeting to be held on 11 August 1943. 1330 hrs leave parade inspection and issuing of leave passes. 0900 hrs CO’s orderly room. This afternoon a cricket team from 5 Brigade played against Maadi sporting club on the latter’s turf pitch at Maadi. Capt. Lambert and Sgt Aylmer Kenny were the sole 28 Battalion representatives in the Brigade team which easily won the match. 1730 hrs tea. 1800 hrs piquet with 2/Lt Tamahori i/c left to do patrol work in Cairo. Weather: fine. Six Mark II 38 W/S were received by our signal platoon from Brigade workshops today.
  • 18 July, Sun 0600 hrs reveille. 0700 hrs breakfast. 0820 hrs Battalion. 0830 hrs Church of England. Padre Rangi ably conducted the service. Opportunity was given to some members of the Battalion after the service to make farewell speeches to the Padre who is now APR and may be leaving for home at any time. A very interesting hour was had by everyone listening to the various speeches and to a very inspiring reply by the Padre himself who again affirmed us of his determination to do his utmost towards the welfare of the Battalion after he has arrived back home. His has been a very enjoyable stay with us. The rest of the day the men spent as they liked. 1730 hrs tea. 1800 hrs Cairo piquet, with 2/Lt Jackson i/c, party left Battalion HQ and returned after midnight. The unit’s strength, excluding officers, was 671 ORs, six of who were attached from NZEME and one from NZMTD. 78 ORs were required to bring the unit to full strength. The total number of officers was 39 (five of whom were attached).
  • 19 July, Mon second week of training starts with the routine as per RO No.51 i.e. Reveille 0515 hrs, sick parade 0545 hrs, breakfast 0800 hrs, lunch 1300 hrs, tea 1800 hrs, lights out 2215 hrs and the training as per Syllabus No. 2 with amendments made in ink. Athletic trials with the object of selecting a team to represent the Battalion at the Division sports meeting to be held in Cairo next month were carried out in the Maadi sporting club’s ground this morning and though a team was selected the times were just ordinary and does not look well for our chances at main meeting when they will be up against the cracks of the Division. 0900-1100 hrs RMO’s inspection of all ranks. 1100 hrs 2 i/c’s conference with Coy 2 i/cs. 1300 hrs lunch. 1400–1500 hrs Siesta.1500–1630 hrs recreation. 1800 hrs 2/Lt Smith was in charge of the Cairo piquet tonight. 2030 hrs to 2230 hrs Battalion out on a night march over the desert. Weather: fine and very warm.
  • 20 July, Tues routine as per ROs No.52 and training as per syllabus No.2. Attached also are syllabi to which the specialist platoons strictly adhere to when on specialist training as set down in the main Battalion Syllabus. 1000 hrs Battalion received 16 No. 38 W/S from Brigade workshops. 1330 hrs IO and I Sgt left on a P/U to lay out a course for the officers’ night march. The rest of the afternoon as for yesterday. 1800 hrs Piquet of 12 ORs, three sergeants and two officers left for patrol duties in Cairo. 2030–2230 hrs CO and all his officers were out on compass work. A lecture on security was given to all the new reinforcements by Corporal Johnston of SIB, from 1200 hrs to 1230 hrs.
  • 21 July, Wed normal Routine as per RO No. 53 and training as per Syllabus for C, D and Battalion HQ, while A, B and HQ Coys carried out training until 0800 hrs. From 0900 hrs to 1800 hrs A, B and HQ Coys went out to the Delta barrage for a day’s outing and a picnic. They moved out in convoy on seven 3-tonners under command of Maj. Chris Sorenson. On arriving back at Battalion they all reported on what a great time they had. During the afternoon from 1400 hrs, the Battalion cricket team played against a team from 4 Field Ambulance on the latter’s ground and came out winners by two wickets, the Battalion scoring 85 runs for 8 wickets chasing their opponent’s 83 all out. Normal routine during the afternoon. 1800 hrs Cairo Piquet of two officers (2/Lt Northcroft i/c party and 2/Lt Urlich) three sergeants and 12 ORs leave Battalion HQ. Weather: fine and sunny with a fairly strong north easterly blowing.
  • 22 July, Thurs Normal routine see RO No 54 and training as per Battalion syllabus. 1030–1130 hrs the RMO, Capt. C.N. D’Arcy gave a lecture to A, B and D Coys on personal hygiene and also on the procedure adopted for evacuating the wounded on the battlefield. Owing to a misunderstanding over the time a security lecture set down for 1145 hrs was not held but the Battalion carried on with the syllabus. 1115 hrs 2 i/c in conference with Coy 2 i/cs. 1200 hrs CO calls conference with Coy Commanders to discuss route for Maadi. 1300 hrs lunch. Tennis: Battalion “A” team played 4 Armoured Brigade HQ Squadron and won by 7 games to 2. The “B” team was beaten by 19th Armoured Regiment on the Maadi club courts (see appendix B for teams dated 22/7/43). 2/Lt Richie Davis marched out today for the NZ Maori Traning Depot. 2030–1800 hrs usual piquet, under Lt Katene and 2/Lt Urlich, leave for Cairo. 2030–2245 hrs all Battalion officers on night compass march.
  • 23 July, Fri normal routine and training. 1130 hrs pay parade drawings limited to £1 per man. 1330 hrs local leave parade. In a cricket match this afternoon the sergeants beat the officers after a very exciting game. 1800 hrs Cairo piquet under 2/Lt Northcroft and 2/Lt Hetet leave Battalion HQ’s. Lt Herbert Marsden admitted to 23 Field Ambulance.  ENSA revue “Out of the Blue” showing in “El Djem” from 2000–2230 hrs.
  • 24 July, Sat normal routine and training. 0900 hrs organised training for those athletes selected to represent Battalion at the forthcoming Division sports under the able eye of 2/Lt Pile. Local leave as usual this afternoon. 1430 hrs Padre Tunoa Wanoa and 43 ORs marched into Battalion from Maori Training Depot, Mena. Padre Wanoa is re-joining us after being evacuated sick while on his way back from Tunisia. 1800 hrs the same Piquet last night is on again tonight. Weather: probably the hottest day we have had since arriving in Egypt.
  • 25 July, Sun reveille 0600 hrs. breakfast 0700 hrs Battalion Parade 0830 hrs Church of England Parade 0845 hrs. Padre Wanoa officiated. Roman Catholic Church Parade at Shafto’s Cinema, Capt. Matehaere i/c Battalion party. 1200 hrs returns of inoculations and vaccinations to reach Battalion HQ. 1330 hrs leave personnel to Cairo inspected and despatched to town by trucks. 1800 hrs normal Cairo Piquet 2/Lt Northcroft i/c party. The unit’s strength, excluding officers, was 728 ORs , five of who were attached. 47 ORs were required to bring the unit to full strength. The total number of officers was 38 (six of whom were attached). Weather: Fine
  • 26 July, Mon normal routine and training as per syllabus No.3. 0945 hrs CO’s Orderly Room. 1015 hrs 2 i/c’s inspection. 1215 hrs lunch. 1400–1500 hrs Siesta, 1500–1630 hrs recreation. 1800 hrs tea. Piquet to Cairo as usual. Weather: fine, but too warm to drill.
  • 27 July, Tues routine as per RO No 58. Training as per Syllabus.1120 hrs inoculations for Battalion HQ personnel. 1130 hrs CO’s Orderly Room. 1330 hrs Brigade swimming sports held in the Camp Baths at Maadi (see Appendix B for detailed results). 28 Battalion scored a total of 33 points, 21 Battalion 15, 23 Battalion 9 and Brigade HQ 3 points. 1800 hrs piquet for Cairo, i/c 2/Lt Northcroft. Leave for Battalion HQ. Weather: very warm, the heat almost unbearable.
  • 28 July, Wed normal routine and training as per syllabus No 3. A, B and HQ Coys moved out from Battalion area at 0630 hrs at quarter hour intervals in 17 3-tonner trucks for the Delta Barrage where they spent the day picnicking. They were all back at Battalion by 1830 hrs. Regimental Stretcher Bearers (RSB) sub-unit were brought up to strength this morning by marching 12 ORs from the Coys. 1630 hrs beer issue of one bottle per man. 2100–2300 hrs PAD exercises were carried out as laid down O.O No. 50/3 (see appendix D).
  • 29 July, Thurs normal routine (see RO No. 60) and Training as per Syllabus. 0900 hrs delousing of officers’ cubicles. A and B Coys marched out to the range for the purposes of zeroing rifles. 1800 hrs Cairo piquet as usual. Tennis in the afternoon and results were: “B” Team played and beat 1 NZ Support Coy by 5 sets to 4. The “A” Team claimed a win by default against 23 Field Ambulance who failed to field a team (see appendix B for teams dated 22/7/43) 2030–2230 hrs Battalion out on a night exercise, i.e. attack on flat hill by the Coys from a westerly direction. Meanwhile Battalion HQ (Intelligence 2 Section and RSBs) carried out a compass march over a five-legged course.
  • 30 July, Fri normal routine as per ROs No 61 and training as per syllabus No.3. HQ Coy and Battalion HQ marched out to the range to zero rifles. 1030 hrs owing to a disturbance in town a Battalion muster parade was held but no one was definitely identified.  An award of seven dozen bottles of beer (surplus from Wednesday’s isssue) was made as a competition for the best Coy and platoon areas today. Rivalry was great but the following divided the prize: 16 Platoon (D Coy), 11 Platoon (B Coy) and 1 Platoon (HQ Coy). Normal routine in the afternoon. 1800 hrs piquet for Cairo under 2/Lt Urlich. Battalion exercise set down for tonight was cancelled. Weather: fine.
  • 31 July, Sat routine as per RO’s No 62. Training as per syllabus No.3. Battalion HQ left at 0845 hrs for Garawi to carry out exercises in desert navigation. 1530 hrs party returned to Battalion HQ. 1330 hrs Maj. Sorenson and 2/Lt Jackson attend course. Normal leave in the afternoon. 1800 hrs Cairo piquet of one 2/Lt Smith, one sergeant and eight ORs leave Battalion HQ and arrive back in camp after midnight. The above strength of the piquet has been in force since the 28 July. See Appendix B dated 24/7/43 for personnel to represent Battalion at Division Swimming Sports to be held late in August; meanwhile they are putting a good deal of their spare time into training. The unit’s strength, excluding officers, was 676 ORs, six of who were attached. 71 ORs were required to bring the unit to full strength. The total number of officers was 40 (nine of whom were attached) including 2/Lts George Tamahori, Watene Pahau and Boy Tomoana who joined the unit this day.

Corrigendum: Page 11 Wed. 21 delete all references to picnic and substitute following: - 0900 hrs C and D Coys with Battalion HQ left for a picnic at the Zoo in seven 3-tonners and arrived back at Battalion 1645 hrs.
Topography: as for last month.
Rations: normal wet rations as issued in Base camps.
Weather: as detailed daily. Actually it was monotonously fine, dry and at times the heat was extremely uncomfortable. Occasional winds were mostly from a north to north easterly direction.
Changes in G. 1098 (i.e. tactical equipment): Nil. As material arrived equipping was carried out to complete kit and equipment.
The Battalion’s stay in Maadi Camp has so far been very enjoyable but after being in the desert so long it took them quite a while to settle down in a limited area.


Archives New Zealand – Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga
28 (Maori) Battalion War Diary, WAII 1 1666 DA 68/1/43

[1] Cody, p. 317

Submitted by mbadmin on

Takupu (0)