Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says stories about the Māori Battalion and other Māori soldiers who served throughout history need to be retold “because all of those stories are so rich and part of who we are and we need to hear them”.
The 28th Māori Battalion served during WWII between 1940 and 1945. Almost 3,600 men served and 649 were killed in action or died on active service.
Ardern says, “We’re doing everything that we can to make sure that, particularly, the contribution of Māori Battalion and those contributions, that history, continues to be retold.”
During a speech at the Auckland Domain dawn service, Ardern talked about how important it is to remember those who served.
“That act of remembrance is so incredibly important…recommitting to telling those stories so the next generation and the next generation hears them.”
She says the Christchurch mosque attacks have also brought into focus the meaning of peace and that, “there’s more that unites us than divides us”.
“Obviously what’s happened in recent months, the 15th of March really [brought] into stark focus what peace means to us.”
This year there was heightened security at the dawn service, prompted by the Christchurch terrorist attack where 50 people were killed.
The prime minister says the government is working towards keeping the country safe with heightened security measures.
“Making sure that we have our own security personnel, our armed forces are well equipped to doing their jobs and then there’s just the day-to-day security management and obviously that’s something we’ve been very focused on lately.”
Māori in war
- Between 1941 and 1945 the Māori Battalion forged an outstanding reputation on the battlefields of Greece, Crete, North Africa and Italy.
- Overall almost 16,000 Māori volunteered for war service between 1939 and 1945, out of a total population of fewer than 100,000.
- Many Māori also served with other units in the 2nd NZ Division, with the 3rd NZ Division in the Pacific, in New Zealand-based army units and in the Home Guard.
- Others served with the Air Force, Navy and Merchant Navy.
- Some Māori women served in the Army Nursing Service and the women's army, air force and navy auxiliaries.
- For more info about Māori in war visit here.