Māori Battalion diary - May 1942


The Battalion was based at Arsal in the Syrian foothills throughout May. With the Djedeide fortress in a reasonably advanced state, a period of exercises and manoeuvres commenced and culminated in a seven-day brigade exercise in practising co-operation with infantry-tanks, in rapid mine laying and lifting, and the use of direct air support. Local leave was allowed to Baalbeck, where Divisional Headquarters was based. However, once the ancient Roman temple ruins had been visited there was little else to do but sample the local brew. Segments of the Battalion took turns at visiting Beirut on day leave.  The Kiwi Concert Party visited, providing evening entertainment as did the YMCA.  Instruction in the handling of anti-tank guns signalled a new addition to the unit’s arsenal.[1]

Lt-Col Dyer’s term as commander of the Battalion came to an abrupt end. The explanation for the sudden termination of his command lay in the enemy weapons that the Battalion admitted it still possessed. These were supposed to have been handed in to Brigade Headquarters when the Battalion was stationed at Kabrit. Instead Dyer had allowed the men to take with them most of what they had acquired between Solllum and Gazala. When Divisional Headquarters learned of these stashes of weapons, Dyer was ordered to turn them in promptly. He objected, believing such an action would breach his troops’ trust, and asked to be relieved of his command before being required to carry out the order.[2]  His replacement, Major Tiwi Love, became the first Māori commander of the unit.

At the start of May the Battalion had 36 officers (three of whom were surplus to establishment) plus the doctor, chaplain, and three Māori subalterns, the latter five being attached to the unit. 

  • Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel: Humphrey Dyer
  • Majors: Tiwi Love(Bn 2IC), Battalion second-in-charge , Fred Baker
  • Captains: Chris Sorrenson, Charles Bennett, Terry Gilroy, Gordon Ormond, Reta Keiha, Ben Porter.
  • Temporary Captains: Rangi Logan, Jim Tuhiwai, Ruhi Pene.
  • Lieutenants: Peta Awatere, H. T. Maloney, Jack Ormsby, Henry Toka,
  • Second Lieutenants: Wai Awarau, Jim Henare, Jim Matehaere, Tony Tikao-Barrett, Syd Jackson, Reg Mariu, Matt Swainson, George Marsden, Peter Ornberg, Roy Te Punga, Ted Hayward, Kuru Waaka, Ace Wood (adjutant), Meta Francis, Walton Haig, Duncan McRae, Eddie Morgan, Ben Ropata, William Vercoe, Harry Lambert.
  • Attached: Capt. R. McDonald (RMO), Capt. Chaplain Kahi Harawira (unit padre), 2/Lts Rangi Tutaki, Jim Aperahama and Hupa Hamiora.


  • 1 May, Fri.  0630 hrs reveille. Work on Bn fortress scheme continued. 1400 hrs Coy Comdrs and Capt. Chris Sorensen left on a recce of fwd areas. 1800 hrs 2/Lt Matt Swainson and 40 ORs proceeded to Baalbek to attend concerts by the UDF concert party. 2/Lt Harry Lambert and 1 OR marched in.
  • 2 May, Sat.  0630 hrs reveille. Normal routine during the morning. 1400 hrs kit Inspection and Interior Economy. A Coy returned to their own area after recce of a proposed alternative position. 1600 hrs another party from Battalion went to the concert in Baalbeck.  2/Lt Syd Jackson returned from a GR course. Lt Peta Awatere returned from special duties 10 Corps. The unit’s strength for the week, excluding officers, was 747 ORs (incl. 4 attached). 26 ORs were required to bring the Battalion to full strength.  The Battalion’s officers numbered 41, 5 of whom were attached. 
  • 3 May, Sun.  0700 hrs reveille. 0930 hrs Divine Service was held in HQ Coy area. 1300 hrs a special dinner was held in commemoration of the day Battalion left NZ and had completed two years of active service.  The meal consisted of pork and vegetables etc cooked in the traditional manner, while each man was provided with a bottle of beer and a packet of cigarettes costing 25 Syrian. Unfortunately the meal could not be held with the whole Battalion together owing to the number of guards and piquets required in Coy areas. 1500 hrs 4 Brigade band played in the area near the YMCA much to the delight of Battalion. 2100 hrs Coy commanders returned from their recce.
  • 4 May, Mon. 0630 hrs reveille. Battalion went to Laboue WP during the day, otherwise normal routine. 0700 hrs a leave party of 4 ORs from HQ Coy proceeded to Beirut. 1200 hrs the guard detachment at Baalbeck returned to the unit. 1400 hrs one platoon from D Coy under 2/Lt Hupa Hamiora and one platoon from C Coy  under 2/Lt Walton Haig left on a mountain warfare training scheme, together with a detachment of the Cypriot 6 Pack Transport Coy to carry supplies. ORs marched in to Battalion form advanced base.
  • 5 May, Tues. 0630 hrs reveille and normal routine as per syllabus. 0900 hrs Lt-Col Humphrey Dyer and 2/Lt Ted Hayward left for Maadi Camp. 1200 hrs a gas section from 9 Army arrived to test the respirators of the unit. Capt. Gordon Ormond marched out to Maori Training Coy as OC of that unit. Lt Awatere transferred to D Coy as OC D Coy. A percentage of Battalion left for three days leave at Beirut. The battalion armourer, Sgt S. Pilkington, marched out to course at Tel El Kebir. 2/Lt Wai Awarau returned from Maadi after attending a FGCM.
  • 6 May, Wed.  0630 hrs reveille. Work on Battalion defences continued. 0830 hrs the Gas Section continued testing respirators.
  • 7 May, Thu. 0630 hrs reveille. Normal routine as per syllabus. 2/Lt Hamiora marched out on officer’s messing course.
  • 8 May, Fri.  0630 hrs reveille. Normal routine as per syllabus. Another small percentage of the unit proceeded to Beirut on 3 days’ leave, the former leave party returned at 1800 hrs. 1930 hrs the NZ Entertainment Unit, popularly known as the Kiwi Concert Party, paid its second visit to the unit, staging its usual bright and breezy performance. Lt Jim Matehaere and Lt Jim Henare marched in from courses. Capt. Ormond transferred to the Maori Training Coy at Maadi Camp.
  • 9 May, Sat.  0630 hrs reveille. Normal routine as per syllabus. D Coy NCOs held special lecture by OC Coy on supporting arms of Infantry – mainly the MMG, in the afternoon. In the early afternoon the CO returned from the Cairo area. 0900 hrs Major Fred Baker, Capt. Jim Tuhiwai and the IO departed on a recce of the fwd areas in one 8-cwt truck. 1100 hrs kit inspection and Interior Economy. The unit’s strength for the week, excluding officers, was 747 ORs (incl. 4 attached). 26 ORs were required to bring the Battalion to full strength.  The Battalion’s officers numbered 39, 5 of whom were attached. 
  • 10 May, Sun.  0700 hrs reveille. 0930 hrs normal divine services held this day commencing at for the first time in the history of this unit a band of six instruments played by Battalion members accompanied the singing of hymns. Lt Jack Reedy marched in as 2ic of C Coy
  • 11 May, Mon.  0500 hrs reveille. Normal routine as per syllabus which marked the commencement of summer training. Coys route march to Laboue WP for the usual weekly shower parade, with D Coy leading thence B Coy, C Coy and A Coy, HQ and Bn HQ details in the rear. Capt. Ace Wood commenced attending a short course on RT procedure at Baalbeck.
  • 12 May, Tue.  0500 hrs reveille. Normal routine as per syllabus. Major Baker and recce party returned this afternoon. 2/Lt Swainson marched out for duties. 2000 hrs YMCA Cinema Unit screened a film in unit area.
  • 13 May, Wed.  0500 hrs reveille. Normal routine as per syllabus. 1530 hrs Major/Temp Lt-Col Dyer,  marched out to duty tour Cairo Area. The usual day leave to Baalbeck afforded a small percentage of the unit to relax.
  • 14 May, Thur. 0500 hrs reveille. Normal routine as per syllabus. Major Tiwi Love is appointed to take temporary charge of Battalion
  • 15 May, Fri. 0500 hrs reveille. Normal routine as per syllabus. 0700 hrs Battalion drill as a unit filling in the remainder of the morning route marching. Usual day-leave to Baalbeck. The CO spoke to the troops at the conclusion of Battalion parade.
  • 16 May, Sat.  0500 hrs reveille. Normal routine as per syllabus. 1010 hrs kit inspection. 1530 hrs Interior Economy. Daily leave to Baalbeck for the usual percentage. The unit’s strength for the week, excluding officers, was 748 ORs (incl. 8 attached – 2 x armourers, 3 x fitters, 1 x boootmaker, 2 x signallers). 29 ORs were required to bring the Battalion to full strength.  The Battalion’s officers numbered 39, 6 of whom were attached including Lt Jack Reedy
  • 17 May, Sun. 0630 hrs reveille. 0900 hrs Divine Service was conducted in HQ Coy area. 1630 hrs Battalion manned the positions which they had prepared in the Djedeide Fortress area to ascertain whether troops could live in their weapon pits under active service conditions. The troops had tea and breakfast in their positions and remained in them for the night. During the night companies sent out patrols as would normally occur under active service.
  • 18 May, Mon.  0430 hrs stand to at first light. 0800 hrs Coys returned to their camping areas. The manning of defensive positions showed that a little additional preparation would render them tenable as required. During the day Coys marched to Laboue WP for hot showers.
  • 19 May, Tue.  0500 hrs reveille. 0700 hrs Bn. drill in preparation for the visit of HRH the Duke of Gloucester. 0900 hrs CO attended a conference at Brigade HQ. 1100 hrs 10 Bren Carriers with Capt. Tuhiwai i.c detachment left for the Brigade manoeuvre area. 2/Lt Lambert marched out to 2 pounder anti-tank course at 7 NZ Anti-tank Regiment area together with 3 ORs. Lt Hamiora returned from course.
  • 20 May,Wed.  0500 hrs reveille. Special parade during the morning for those members of the unit who were selected for ceremonial parade. The remainder of Battalion normal routine as per syllabus. 1300 hrs Coys proceeded to Brigade parade ground for the ceremonial parade for HRH the Duke of Gloucester. The Battalion maintained its reputation for its high standard of drill. 1700 hrs RMT transport reported to unit for use during Brigade manoeuvres.
  • 21 May,Thur.  0445 hrs reveille. 0815 hrs Battalion embussed and commenced the journey to Forgloss as per movement order. 1400 hrs Battalion arrived at bivouac area Forgloss. Preparations made for harbouring during the night. Coys placed their p1atoons as a perimeter guard of the unit area.
  • 22 May, Fri.  0500 hrs reveille. 0730 hrs Coys proceeded on individual practise on desert formations. 1100 hrs Coys returned to bivouac area after practising desert formations as a battalion. 1300 hrs With the 4 Brigade Group Battalion moved out on exercise in motorised transport. Route taken: SP Bivouac area, thence 2700 m on a bearing of 80 degrees -180 degrees for approx 8 km passing trig 117 in square 2828 thence finally turning right to reach track leading back to Forgloss and the convoy then returned to start point.  During the manoeuvre practise in changing from light desert formation to night formation was carried out. 1745 hrs Battalion reached the Bivouac area and rested for the remainder of the day. Normal night patrols were posted in and around Battalion perimeter. 2300 hrs Battalion manoeuvred into night formation within the bivouac area and waited starting time of exercise. 0313 hrs advance in motorised transport by night commenced. 0418 hrs Battalion reached its objective and after a short halt returned to its own area arriving at 0535 hrs.
  • 23 May, Sat.  0630 hrs breakfast, after which troops rested until midday mess. 4 Brigade with 28 Battalion proceeded on operations laid down in instructions received by the CO. During the move Battalion acted in the capacity of rear guard for the Brigade group.  1702 Battalion halted. 1810hrs advance resumed halting again at 1824 hrs and awaited instruction from Brigade HQ. 2000 hrs at last light the troops debussed and preparations were made for the defence of the area. 2100 hrs CO attended a conference at Brigade HQ after which the Coy Commanders were informed of the situation and instructed to prepare for a move early on the following morning. The unit’s strength for the week, excluding officers, was 746 ORs (incl. 6 attached). 29 ORs were required to bring the Battalion to full strength.  The Battalion’s officers numbered 39, 6 of whom were attached. 
  • 24 May, Sun.  0345 hrs reveille. 0635 hrs Battalion in semi-closed formation (desert formation with interval of 50 yards between vehicles) advanced and passed through Brigade HQ. Halted at 0700 hrs. Battalion was now forward with 18 Battalion on the right. 20 Battalion was holding the line immediately forward of 28 Battalion with 19 Battalion similarly placed in relation to the 18 Battalion. 0746 Passed through artillery lines. 0810 hrs halted. Battalion prepared to launch an attack round the left flank on hill 660. 1115 hrs lunch for Battalion while the Coy Commanders and CO made a recce of the fwd areas. Later the CO attended a conference at Brigade and Battalion was given the role of mobile reserve. 1800 hrs Battalion was not required during the afternoon after forming up in desert formation the Battalion moved to a position between the 18 and 19 Battalions. At last light the unit closed in and posted piquets around the harbour area. 2100 hrs The CO informed Coy Commanders that Battalion was to be a mobile column with supporting arms. The supporting arms arrived at intervals during the night taking up positions inside our infantry perimeter.
  • 25 May, Mon.  0330 hrs reveille. 0430 hrs A Squadron, Div Cavalry, 1 Troop, 31 NZ Anti-tank Battery passed with A Coy advancing as van guard with one section carriers under command. 0515 hrs Div Cavalry made good their first objective. Battalion with the remainder of the supporting arms on the flanks and the remainder of Battalion carriers moving out on right flank moved towards objective. 0600 hrs Div Cavalry had reported no enemy in sight. Van guard made good at aerodrome. 0640 hrs Main column arrived at aerodrome.  0730 Div Cavalry reported “all clear”. 0740 hrs TAC/R plane overhead. Battalion continued moving steadily until 0845 hrs when the column halted 6 km from the objective Ain El Beida. At the same time, Coy commanders and the CO went forward to make a recce in the vicinity of A Coy positions. 1010 hrs Battalion moved fwd to start line which was one mile from objective. 1020 hrs C Coy and D Coy debussed and advanced – C Coy left flank, D Coy on right, B Coy in reserve. The artillery gave supporting fire until the infantry were 270 m from the objective. 1050 hrs objective taken and dump destroyed. A Coy advance on motorised transport and passed through C and D Coys and consolidated 730 m forward. 1230 hrs Battalion with a battery of artillery protecting the flanks commenced return to Forgloss area.1400 hrs Div Cavalry and remainder of supporting arms moved off covering Battalion rear.1710 hrs Battalion arrived at Bivouac area Forgloss. 1900 hrs the C.O, adjutant, and Coy commanders attended conferences at Divisional HQ where the whole manoeuvres were discussed.
  • 26 May, Tue.  0500 hrs reveille. 0720 hrs Battalion commenced the move back to Arsal as per.  The route was changed to read Forgloss-Ghontour-Hadasse-across country to position map reference 27002590-Sadad- Hafer-Deir-Aatiye-Nebek- Arsal. 1500 hrs Battalion less carriers (remained in Forgloss area to be loaded on transport and returned to Arsal.) arrived in camp area Arsal. 1730 hrs RMT left to return to their unit.
  • 27 May, Wed.  0500 hrs reveille. During the morning Coys cleaned weapons and had Interior Economy. 1500 hrs conference of all officers who attended the manoeuvres for discussion and lessons learned. C Coy detached temporarily for guard duties at Talia.  A detachment of the NZ Dental Unit marched in attached to this unit for special duties ic Capt. Shaw-Thompson and 3 ORs. Lt J.G. Howden marched in as quartermaster.
  • 28 May, Thur.  0500 hrs reveille. Coys proceeded to Laboue WP for hot showers. 1115 hrs Brigadier gave a talk to the unit on operations recently concluded at Forgloss. 1300 hrs CO’s orderly room.
  • 29 May, Fri.  0500 hrs reveille. Normal routine. Some of the companies are completing wiring within area.
  • 30 May, Sat.  0500 hrs reveille. 0800 hrs CO, Capt. Ben Porter – OC A Coy left to assist in the umpiring of a Brigade manoeuvre under divisional instructions. 1000 hrs Interior Economy and a snap kit inspection. Capt. Rangi Logan, Lieut Jack Ormsby, 2/Lt Lambert and 12 ORs marched in from 2 pounder anti-tank course. The unit’s strength for the week, excluding officers, was 764 ORs (incl. 11 attached). 16 ORs were required to bring the Battalion to full strength.  The Battalion’s officers numbered 40, 7 of whom were attached including 2/Lt Hamiora and the dentist, Capt. Shaw-Thompson and Lieut. Howden. 
  • 31 May, Sun.  0630 hrs reveille. 0930 hrs Divine Service held in HQ Coy Area.


Archives New Zealand = Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga.
28 NZ (Maori) Battalion Diary, WAII 1 1664 DA 68/1/29

[1] Cody, p. 186.

[2] Nga Tama Toa, pp. 214–5.

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