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This is one of a series of interviews conducted as part of an oral and photographic history of C Company of the 28th Māori Battalion.  The project commenced in 1994 and the Nga Taonga a Nga Tama Toa Trust (Box 399, Gisborne) hold the recordings on behalf of the descendants of C Company.

Miki Harrison was born 2 May 1916 and was the son of Ned Harrison of Waipiro Bay and Pera Poutu of Wharekahika.  In the full interview Miki recounts his experiences with the Maori Battalion, from training in New Zealand in 1939 to fighting in Greece in 1941 where he was captured. He also talks about his time in Germany in a Prisoner of War camp which only ended in 1945.  

The interviewer is Tamati (Tom) Fox supported by his mother's brother John McIlroy, both originally from the Waipiro Bay area.  John was with the Sixth Maori Reinforcements and caught up with the Battalion in Egypt in 1941.  Monty Soutar is on camera and Pia Pohatu is also present.  Both were members of the C Company oral and photographic research team and also from the area.  The interview took place at Miki's residence in Te Puia Springs, 24 November 1994.

Transcript (edited)

Tom:  Now on the 16th of April you made contact with the enemy at Petras Pass, Mt Olympus.

Miki Harrison:  Mt Olympus.  That's right, we were, we were up at Olympus when the Germans started coming in.  We looked down at the, down and we could see them coming on the [other side of the Mavroneri Gorge]. That's where Paiki and, not Paiki, Percy [Goldsmith] we were looking at ... and we saw two lizards (John: Ae, he tino tohu pai. (Yes, that's a favourable omen) on a branch, whaiwhai ana, whai haeretanga te (chasing each other, the [green one] was chasing the), what's the colour of our uniform?

Tom:  Khaki

Miki:  Oh khaki, the green one was chasing the khaki.  Ko mea mai a Percy (Percy said to me), "Gee we're going to be chased out of here, look." (Tom: yeah.)  And I said, "what?"
"See those lizards there (Tom: Go on.) the green one chasing the khaki one."

Tom: Go on, eh?  Well look at that.

Miki: Look at that and that's what happened.

Tom: E kī, he tohu. Rite tonu ngā tohu. Kua kite i tēnā tohu, nē?
(Well, an omen.  Just like premonitions.  You had seen that omen, eh?)

John:  Ae, tērā pea te mea, te mea te lizard tonu, kai te ngaro tonu te tohu, kāre tēnei i te tohu pai. Kai te mohio koe te taima i mate ai a Mum, nē? Arā mātau i Tōrere, māua, māua ko te fulla Harold Drake.  "E tā, Harold, kaua."  Awhina te katakata mai I tua mai i Tōrere i rō manuka nei na, yeah. And i te kōrero tāna ki a Mum, you know, "Tukuna." Kāre i tino pai ki a rātau. Hika, not long, ka mate te old lady. Mmm. Tēnā tohu tēnā ... I never forget that(?)
(Yes, perhaps that thing, the lizard, we've lost its meaning, for this was not a portent of good. You recall the time Mum died, eh? There we were at Tōrere, Harold Drake and I. "E tā, Harold, don't [do that to the lizard]." I was laughing with him. [This was] on the other side of Tōrere in this manuka grove, yeah.  And he was talking to Mum, you know, [and she said,] "Let it go." They did not like it. Well, not long after the old lady died. Mmm. That's that ... I never forget that.(?)

Tom: Nē? Ināianei he tohu tēnā ki a tātau i te Māori, nē?  (Eh? Nowadays, that's a sign to us Maori, eh?)

Miki:  Oh yes. It happened to me on the boat [i.e. Aquitania troopship in May 1940]. (Tom:  Go on.) I was having a rest, rest period at that time.  I was looking through the port hole and a bloody bird swoosh, flew past me into the [room]... buggar he rūrū (it was an owl).

Tom: Nē? he rūrū? (Eh? An owl?) Go on.

Miki:  Bloody kaitiaki (spiritual guardians) was there all around.

John: Engari, he tohu pai wēnā. (However those are good omens.)

Miki:  After awhile I felt nice, safe, gee, I felt good.

Tom: Oh yeah.  Ka pai..

John: Ko Percy tonu pea tētahi o koutou i mate i runga i te pōti rānei. A Percy Goldsmith rā?  (Was Percy one of those who died on the boat? Percy Goldsmith.)

Miki: A, i mate rā ia i te wāpu rā (Yes, he died at that wharf).  [i.e. Port of Piraeus, Athens on 24 April 1941.] Oh poor bugger, koia te mea ka mate (he was the one who was killed).  Tīhore mai nga [whēkau], (his [intestines] were laid bare) opened up).  Koia te karanga mai a ia (That's when he called to me), "brother I'm buggered, shoot me"

John: Ko wai tēnā? (Who is that?)

Miki:  Ko Percy (Percy said), "Come on shoot me".  (Tom: Go on, eh).  And another Pommie boy came crawling up.  All his hands were shattered and half of his face here was taken off.  And I thought, well, if I have to shoot you, I have to shoot him too.   I don't want two on my hands.  It's a thing that, well I thought at that time, if I shoot him it will stay here for the rest of my life.  Even now and again I hear that, i a ia e karanga ana (him calling to me), ‘Brother, brother, shoot me!'

Tom: Still haunts you now, eh? Comes back to you.

John:  Tangi Ehau told me everything about that, you know that when they got bombed.  Oh yeah, it must've been bad.

Miki:  So I turned away from him and I could hear him, "You gutless bastard."

Tom: Go on eh, that's what he said to you?

John:  Kua mohio aia, kua mutu kē, eh? (He must have known he was finished, eh?) Must've been.

Tom:  And he died.  Was the whole stomach here blown out?

Miki:  Koirā, i a ia e kōrero nei. (That's what he said.) Now and again when I think of him, I still see it.

John:  You never forget those things, eh? Once you see them, they're always there.

Miki:  Yeah, koirā te mea mai (that's what he said), "You gutless bastard"

John:  Koirā i kōrero nei a Tangi ki ahau, Tangi Ehau, koia hoki tētahi.  Kāhia hoki te pōti
(That's what Tangi told me, Tangi Ehau, he was one of them.  The boat was on fire).

Tom:  Mmm.  Ka mau te wehi Mick, ka mau rā te wehi, nē rā?  (Too much Mick, too much, eh?)

Miki:  He's the one I always think of, you know now and again, i hurihuri haere [ngā whakaaro] (when your mind wanders), always thinking, I'll never forget.

John:  Kua koa toa, ki atu koe tērā te ahua. (?)

Tom:  Ok, i whea tēnā (Where was that)?

Miki:  At Athens, the Port of Athens,

Tom:  Athens, oh yeah.

The portions of the transcript with (?) after the text were difficult to transcribe or translate.  If any user is able to determine what is being said, please contact us at [email protected]

Read more about the Hellas, which was bombed at the Port of Piraeus, Athens.


Nga Taonga a Nga Tamatoa Trust
This excerpt has been reproduced with the permission of Sonia Clarke daughter of Miki Harrison.

In late March 1941 the Second New Zealand Division was sent from Egypt to Greece. While the bulk of the 730-strong Maori Battalion entrained to Mt Olympus to defend northern Greece a 90-strong Māori reinforcement company was left with other New Zealand reinforcements at Voula near Athens.  They were to reinforce their battalions if and when required.  When the troops were evacuated from Greece at the end of April the Reinforcement Company headed south but were captured at Kalamata. 

In this video clip Sir Henare Ngata an officer in the Māori Battalion and the youngest son of Sir Apirana Ngata recounts the trip south and the Reinforcement Company's capture by the Germans. In the full interview he recounts his experiences from training in New Zealand in 1939 to fighting in Greece in 1941 where he was captured. He also talks about his time in Germany in a Prisoner of War camp which only ended in 1945. 

This is one of a series of interviews conducted as part of an oral and photographic history of C Company of the 28th Māori Battalion.  The project commenced in 1994 and the Nga Taonga a Nga Tama Toa Trust (Box 399, Gisborne) hold the recordings on behalf of the descendants of C Company.

The interviewer is Tom Fox supported by Monty Soutar (project leader) and Hirini Reedy (then a captain in the NZ Army) and Tata Lawton (camerman). It was recorded 24 April 1995 at Sir Henare Ngata's residence in Gisborne. 

Transcript (edited)

Well there wasn't much organisation when you're in flight; there's not a great deal of organisation, almost everyman for himself.  Where the Battalion was I don't know we never ever made contact with the Battalion.  Whether they were behind us or whether ahead of us, I don't know.  We moved south. 

Question: Just your platoon or company, group?
The Reinforcements

Question: The Reinforcements still intact?
Well more or less.  [There were] A lot of empty trucks moving.  When you ran out of petrol you just tipped your truck over the side of the road and dive into the nearest ravine and hopped onto the next truck.  And that's where we finished up.  We finished up at a place called Kalamata.  We finished up there because there was nowhere else to go further south.  (Except the sea)  That was supposed to have been the port that we where we to embark from and I don't know to this day where the Battalion embarked from.  The first night we were at Kalamata we fancied we could hear ships out at sea.  Whether they were any there or not I don't know.  But there were literally thousands of people there.  

Question: Uniformed people? 
Yes there were New Zealanders, Australians, Yugoslavians - huge number of Yugoslavians there, Palestinians, British.  There was a brigadier there, Pom brigadier, I've forgotten his name.  Poor beggar, I suppose because he was a brigadier everyone expected him to organise the shambles, because nothing happened I suppose everyone pointed the finger at him.  But certainly we didn't get off that night.  Whether anyone got off, whether in fact any ships came in I don't know. Everything had to be blacked out anyway.  In the meantime we knew the Germans were fairly close to the township.  Next night they came, there was some fighting in the streets and so on.  That's where a chap Hulme got his VC.  There was a chap with him, a chap Horopapera, all sorts of stories that he should've got a VC too.  Whether it was so or not I don't know.  He was shot through the lower jaw.  I saw him briefly after the war, we were in England, and I asked him about the stories and well, whether that's the dinkum or not I don't know.  So we ran out of space and we ran out of time.

Question: Just waiting for the inevitable?
Well, waiting for something.  But what turned up on the final day, 29th of April 1941 the Germans came.  Panzer troops came and occupied.

Question: Just rounded everybody up?
Yeah, rounded everybody up.  Well rounded up the officers particularly.  There'd been some casualties, some deaths the night before.  All dumped in the back of the truck like carcases of meat. These German Officers were very curious to know who we were with New Zealand patches and dark faces.  So that's how we were rounded up.  So you can be cynical in later years as to why they ever sent such a poorly equipped force into a place such as that.  However, that's what happened.   We spent five weeks in a place called Corinth, Corinth Camp.  It was during that period that the attack on Crete took place.  From time to time they had to our change guards.  I recall some of these paratroopers they were assigned to guard us - young fellas, they all looked young.  We were young ourselves and these fellas looked like kids compared with us.  Young, fit, all bursting with energy.  Then we'd see them go out, planes fly out, together with troop carrying planes going out.  And the next night these fellas would come back, about three nights in succession I think. They'd ome back to, I don't know not coming back, but they had paratroopers to guard us and then they disappeared.  We knew nothing of what happened what was happening in Crete, no news whatever, till a long time afterwards.  There were six of us Maori officers: myself, Jimmy Wiremu and Henry Hokianga - the three of us were with the Reinforcement unit - then there was, oh and Bill Herewini, he was also with the Reinforcement unit.  The other two were Tenga Rangi, who was separated from the Main Body of the Battalion.  He was the officer in charge of the... Tenga and... George Bennett.  George Bennett was in command, had the bren carriers under his command.  I've forgotten what Tenga's command was [note: 2/Lt Rangi was in charge of the mortar platoon] but they were separated from the Battalion and they found themselves with us. So they were taken prisoner.

Question: Within that five weeks stay in that camp what was the treatment like?
[There] Was hardly any food.  Physical treatment was alright.  A whole lot of other troops there with us.  We had with us a dental unit; a New Zealand Dental unit were right up in the front line.  Why that should be so I don't know.  And then we had one of these chaps with us, two or three of them with us and in the mornings at medical parade one of these dentists had to deal with people who wanted dental treatment.  I think he only had a left jaw pliers or whatever it was and he used to, whatever the complaint was he'd yank the tooth out.  We were there about five weeks, we moved from there to Salonika and then to Germany.

Nga Taonga a Nga Tamatoa Trust.
This excerpt has been reproduced with the permission of Sir Henare Ngata.

One of a series of interviews conducted as part of an oral and photographic history of C Company of the 28th Maori Battalion.  The project commenced in 1994 and the Nga Taonga a Nga Tama Toa Trust (Box 399, Gisborne) hold the recordings on behalf of the descendants of C Company. 

In the full interview Arthur Brooking recounts his experiences with the Maori Battalion, from training in New Zealand in 1940 to fighting in Greece and Crete in 1941 where he was captured. He also talks about his time in Germany in a Prisoner of War camp which only ended in 1945.  

The interviewer is Taina McGregor (nee Tangaere) supported by Monty Soutar (project leader) at Hinerupe Marae, Te Araroa in January 1996.


I kiia mai ki a mātau, "We got to board the ship to go somewhere, destiny unknown."  Yeah, yea, kāre mātau i mohio e haere mātau ki whea but it finished up ki Athens.  A, ka haere i reira, a, right up ki te wahanga hei haeretanga Mt Olympus. Na ra, te timatanga o Olympus, ka noho mātau i reira, rite tonu waenga [?] mo te toru ra, preparing to go up about 20 miles away i reira timata te Olympus Pass.  Koira, ka tangohia a [?] mātau whakaahua i reira. Tirohia te whakaahua o te rōpu Battalion Headquaters Kāre tonu au e mohio kāre oku whakaahua o taua ope [?] māku e haere.

Taua kainga Olympus Pass he pīki mangu.  Tētahi wahanga e haere i te left hand side, he haere ka mutu te rori, nē.  I reira au, me haere mātau.  Kua nohonoho haerengia mātau nga kamupene, nē.  Tae atu hoki ētahi nga kamupene o te 21st, 22nd, 23rd, yeah, te timatanga atu o taua maunga ka piki haere ka noho ko mātau te moka rawa atu 28th.  Kāti, katahi kē he huarahi, kāre he huarahi mo te pēnei nei, ka hoki kua tae kē mai te Tiamana i timata mai ki nga mea, te timatanga mai o te rori.

Kua timata te whawhai i reira, whawhai haramai mai, a...a, ka haramai, ana ka tae mai ki a mātau, oh well he pohiri tonu tēra tāima [?].

He patai: He uaua?

Ae, he uaua, he kohu taua taima i tae, te wāhi i tae mai i a mātau.  Ka mutu, ka whakāreri mātau tonu.  Piki iho te iwi i reira, piki tua kei reira e mahi ana nga waea, barb wire. D Company te mea i, the last one i reira.  Te māpu o D Company.  Ko rātau nga mea tukino nei, i taua pakanga, tuatahi, ko rātau o te Fourth [Reinforcements].

He patai: Nga Tiamana wēna?

Ko nga Tiamana i piki iho i reira.  Yeah.  Whaiwhaitia [?], i timata mua te whawhai ki raro. Piki haere mai, piki haere mai.  He rawe, he maunga kaita, he ngahere.  Ko te mea i kiia mai ki a mātau, "Katahi mo te, you know, fight to the finish."  Koira te korero.  E tama man.  Oh well, ka roa atu tera, ka tukuna mai he runner te ki mai, "me hoki, withdraw."

Kāti, kua matemate katoa ētahi o nga mea o nga trenches i a, na ra, te D Company. Kua matemate kei reira i taua taima.  He kohu hoki i taua taima.  I te hikitanga o taua kohu i reira, kua kite mai te iwi nei.  Ae.  Kāti, kāre he huarahi hoki atu, te wahi i haere mai mātau kāre he huarahi ke atu.  Kāti, te kitanga mai i a mātau, "Me evacuate."  Koinei te taima ka piki mātau taua Olympus i te po.  Ara te transport, he penei taua maunga timata mai. Olympus kei konei, ko tētahi o nga main road kei kona, ko mātau kei konei. kāre ke he huarahi ke atu.  And kāre e taea e mātau te hoki i reira, kua tae ke mai nga Tiamana kei reira.

So, ka haere mātau ki te whakawhiti moana.  Ko taku hoa, mohio atu te taima i ki mai te apiha ki a mātau, ta mātau tākuta.  I ki mai ia, "We will have to go.  But I want you and Moana to take all nga mea, medical boxes, tae noa."  Well, i haere tenei i te pō.  Te waha haere i te pō, te taha [ki a] Moana Ngarimu me ahau, ko māua nga detail mo te waha kia [?] tae atu ki tēnei taha o te Olympus nga huarahi kei reira he transport e tatari. 

Oh well, i muri iho i tēnā, oh well, kei reira nga Australians take up he line kei reira, haere mātau ki tua atu i a rātau, a, ki tua atu pea i ētahi, take up mai position.  Ko tētahi o mātau wāhi i take up position there, the rearguard, near Corinth.  I reira ka mea mai a Te Moana ki a au, "E hoa, me haere tāua te kaukau."  Kāti, badly needed, a, kāti, i moe haere noa iho nga kākahu, koira tonu [to] paraikete.  Ka moe koe, ka rapa haere te wāhi ka ahua peneti [?].  Kia marangai tonu ake, ka haere te wai [?]. Kāre he paraikete, kāre he aha.  Mutu tonu to kōti ake.  Pera ano, a tae noa atu ki Greece [i.e. Crete].

He patai: He aha ou whakaaro i aua wā?  Mataku?  He aha rānei?

Kāre ano te mataku i tae mai [ki] te tangata te kaha, to tarai i te karo rā i nga matā a te Tiamana. Ahakoa kua papa iho [?], kāre ano kia whai taima rawa i te mataku. 

He patai: Ki te whakaaro? 

Arā ke nga mea kino ko nga bombs i haramai [ki] te bomb i a mātau.  Kāre i ngaro i a au he mea, pehea te tawhiti.  Rongo atu kua whio mai nga mea rā, a, ka ki mai ki a mātau, "Kia taka."


We were told, "We got to board the ship to go somewhere, destiny unknown."  Yeah, yea, we did not know where we were going but it finished up it was Athens.  So we went there and right up to the area we were to go -Mt Olympus, that is, we were based at the entrance to Olympus.  I think we were there [i.e. Katerini] three days, preparing to go up about 20 miles away where Olympus Pass begins.  That's where we took our photo [at Katerini].  See Battalion Headquarters photo  I don't know where I was when the photo was taken [?].

That place Olympus Pass was big and black.  On one part on the left hand side there was a no exit road.  That's where I was, we went there. Each company was positioned alongside each other, eh. Then further along there were other companies of the 21st, 22nd and 23rd [Battalions], yeah, from the beginning of that mountain it climbs upwards and we were right at the end, the 28th.  Well, there was no road, there was no road by which we could withdraw for the Germans were already approaching where the pass road commences.

The fighting started there and gradually spread until it reached us, oh well the boys were there to welcome it.

Question: Was it difficult?

Yes, it was difficult. There was fog at the time, the time that we arrived.  When it cleared we got ready.  The enemy climbed up [towards us].  They were trying to get over our wire, barb wire. D Company was the last one there.  The group from D Company.  They're the ones who suffered casualties during that battle, they were the first, [most of the casualties] were the Fourth [Reinforcements].

Question: Were the enemy Germans?

[Yes] Germans who had climbed up [to D Company's positions].  Yeah.  They fought each other [?].  The fighting began [?] lower down [the mountain] and it gradually proceeded upwards.  It was a great place, a large forested mountain. The thing we were told was "We had to, you know, fight to the finish."  That's what the talk was.  Man!  Oh well, some time after that a runner was sent to tell us to "withdraw."

Well some of those in the trenches were killed outright, that is, the D Company trenches. They died there at the time.  It was foggy.  When the fog lifted we could see the enemy.  Yes.  Now, there was no road by which we could withdraw other than the road by which we had arrived.  Well, when we were told we were evacuating that's when we climbed up over Olympus in the dark.  There's the transport, the mountain starts off like this. Olympus is here, the main road is there, and we are here. There was no other road available.  And we couldn't use the main road because the Germans had reached it.

So we withdrew to embark via the sea.  I remember the time my mate and I were told by the officer - the doctor.  He said to us "We will have to go.  But I want you and Moana to take all the things, medical boxes, and everything."  Well, we left in the dark.  We were carrying in the dark.  Moana Ngarimu and I were detailed to carry everything to the other side of Olympus where there were roads and where transport was waiting.  

Oh well, after that, there were Australians who picked up the line there, and we went beyond them and other units I think, and we took up new positions.  One place where we took up a position there was the rearguard, near Corinth.  There Moana said to me, "Mate, lets go and have a wash."  Well, badly needed as we slept in our clothes, they were your blanket. When you slept you sought/dug out a place with your bayonet.  When it rained the water ran [in].  You had no blanket, nothing at all.  At the end of the day, your coat was all you had.  It was like that all the way to Crete. 

Question: What were you thinking at the time?  Were you frightened or not? 

Fear had no time to take hold as you were busy avoiding the German shells.   When they exploded [?] you had no time to be afraid. 

Question: Or to think about it?

The bombs to watch out for were the bombs intended for us.  I won't forget how to judge how far away they were [?].  When you heard those things whistling we would be told, "Get down."


The portions of the transcript with [?] after the text were difficult to transcribe or translate.  If any user is able to determine what is being said, please contact us at [email protected]



Nga Taonga a Nga Tama Toa Trust.  
This excerpt has been reproduced with the permission of both Arthur Brooking and his family.

The Māori Battalion soldiers who had been prisoners of war (mostly captured in Greece, Crete and Libya in 1941) were liberated following the German surrender in May 1945. They arrived home later that year, several months before the main body of the Battalion returned from Italy. This National Film Unit Weekly Review film shows former POWs being welcomed at Whakarewarewa and Ōhinemutu, Rotorua.

WEEKLY REVIEW No. 209, Archives NZ - See reference on their film wiki website

This film shows members of the 28th Māori Battalion and other New Zealand troops at Maadi Camp in Egypt following their evacuation from Crete at the end of May 1941. Soldiers are shown washing and relaxing, while a Māori Battalion soldier shows off a German Iron Cross that he souvenired during the Battle for Crete. New Zealand Prime Minister Peter Fraser and the commander of the NZ Division, Bernard Freyberg, are seen addressing the assembled troops.

'Return from Crete', Archives New Zealand YouTube