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The 28 Maori Battalion was a voluntary rifle unit formed in 1939 for services overseas during World War II; over 3700 men served in the unit.

C Company, one of 5 companies in the Battalion, was formed by volunteers from Torere around the East Coast to Muriwai taking in the tribal groupings of:

Ngai Tai, Te Whanau a Apanui, Ngati Porou, Rongowhakaata, Te Aitanga a Mahaki, and Ngai Tamanuhiri.

Of the 945 embarkations, 177 died representing a death rate of 18.6%. The total casualty rate, including wounded and prisoners was 70%.




The C Company Oral History project has its origins in the build up for the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the awarding of the Ngarimu VC which was held in Ruatoria in 1993. In preparation for the hui, some 700 war photographs were copied from whanau collections for display.

Such was the impact of these visuals, that the Gisborne Branch of the 28 Maori Battalion Association funded the beginnings of a process that led into a large project initiated through Professor Mason Durie at Massey University.

The project went on to become one of New Zealand’s largest oral history projects and not only was the photograph work continued but surviving members of C Company and C Company families were interviewed under the expert direction of the late Bob Maru and others. Massey University students completed the research under the leadership of Dr Monty Soutar.

During the project approximately 200 returned servicemen, members of C Company and their relatives were interviewed and videotaped and a substantial amount of memorabilia and photographs were either given or loaned by members of the C Company and their relatives to enable the exhibition of the pictorial history of the C Company to be put together.




Nga Taonga a Nga Tama Toa Trust was established in 1997 made up of veterans and their whanau to manage this collection of taonga and inform the wider public of the achievements of members of C Company.

Perhaps the most significant direction for the project was provided by the late Sir Apirana Ngata who wrote in a letter in March 1946 that a history of the C Company of the 28th Maori Battalion should be compiled from official data and personal accounts.


March 27, 1946


Judge Carr,
Pres. Maori Land Board



Dear Sir,

It has been decided, that a history of C. Coy. of the 28th Maori Battalion in the recent war should be compiled from official data and personal accounts while things are fresh in mind.

The one senior officer of the district, who saw most of the campaigns, and who commanded the Battalion to the end of the campaign in Italy, is Lt.Col. Awatere, and he has been asked and has agreed to undertake the task.

The compilation is expected to occupy twelve months and will involve –

(a) Contact with the Archive Section of Army H.Q. and with Base Records, involving visits to Wellington.

(b) Contact with and personal interviews of officers and men of C.Coy, who occupy from Muriwai to Opotiki, with a few beyond the district. The centres for these should be Gisborne, Ruatoria and Te Kaha; and

(c)Assembling or perusing the correspondence of officers and men written from overseas.

This is a unit history and will be regarded by Army HQ as a private matter. The official history of the Battalion is being compiled by Army, but from what I have seen of it, it is lacking in the interest which personal accounts and the background of the experiences of the men alone can supply.

I have gone into the matters of finance and estimate that the job will cost between 800 pounds and one thousand pounds, do not think there will be any difficulty about that once the material is ready. The following sources are indicated for ways and means –

Tairawhiti Maori Land Boards
East Coast Trust (Muriwai and Tologa)
Whangara Blocks
Tokomaru Bay
  Te Puia to Hicks Bay, inc Waiapu Farmers, Tikitiki Stn
  Whanau a Apanui & Ngaitai
I have discussed with Col Awatere remuneration &c. and the following has been agreed upon:-
Salary pounds 10.10.0 a week
Travelling allowance 25/ - a day plus actual fares
Awatere’s home is at present at Rotorua and there is the usual difficulty in arranging accommodation on this side. He will work principally at Gisborne and Ruatoria. He should be subject to your general supervision.
The contributions should be paid in to the Board to an appropriate fund. Awatere’s term begins on the 1st next month.
Yours faithfully,
The original trustees are:
- Mr Tautini Moana Glover, QSM ; (Chair) 802006
- Mr Nolan Raihania, JP; (Deputy Chair) 817699
- Sir Henare Ngata; 6126
- Mr John Waititi, QSO; 802279
- Mrs Keita Walker;
- Mrs Taina McGregor;
- Dr Monty Soutar.
Previous trustees (until their deaths) have been:
- Mr Bob Maru (inaugural Chair);
- Mr Darcy Ria;
  - Mr Maiki Parkinson;  
- Mrs Matire (Tum) Glover, QSO;
- Mr Katene McDonald;
- Mrs Hine Taare;
The original trustees have recently been joined by new trustees:
- Mr Rutene Irwin;
- Ms Kahurangi Waititi;
- Ms Phillipa Callaghan;
- Mr Walton Walker;
- Mrs Ingrid Collins;
- Mr Reweti Ropiha;
- Ms Linnae Pohatu;
- Mr Barry Soutar.
In 1996 the C Company, 28 Maori Battalion exhibition opened at Gisborne Museum and Arts Centre. Nga Taonga a Nga Tama Toa Trust signed in 1999 a formal Memorandum of Understanding with Tairawhiti Museum agreeing that the museum would house the collection and alongside the Trust, create an exhibition about C Company.