Recordings of the 28th Māori Battalion are now online

Personal Christmas messages made 70 years ago by wounded Māori troops in North Africa, have gone onto the 28th Māori Battalion website. The recordings were made on acetate discs during the 1940s by the National Broadcasting Service, now Radio New Zealand Te Reo Irirangi O Aotearoa.
The National Broadcasting Service had a mobile recording unit which travelled overseas with the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force.  The mobile studios were installed into Bedford truck and travelled around the deserts of North Africa and on through Italy with New Zealand forces.

These precious taonga are cared for by the Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero, which is a repository for archival photos, film and audio of the Battalion.

Ref: AWNS-19391206-40-3, Sir George Grey Special Collections
The idea to make the recordings available came from archivist Sarah Johnston. “The original description of this 1942 recording was ‘Christmas carols from staff and patients at No. 2 New Zealand General Hospital, North Africa’”, Sarah explains. “On listening to it we found messages from doctors and nurses and descriptions of Christmas Day celebrations in the hospital, and then a group of Māori patients is introduced, led by Nurse Wiki Katene of Porirua (Ngati Toa). They sing “Silent Night/Marie te po” and then, while the choir sings “Tama Ngakau Marie” in the background, 14 men introduce themselves and send greetings in Māori to whanau back home”.

Ref: AWNS-19431013-18-5, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Enhancement of the recordings by audio historian Dr Monty Soutar of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage Mānatu Taonga and coordinator of the 28 Māori Battalion website, has led to most of the speakers being identified. They include the following soldiers who were all wounded during the Alamein campaign: Peter Hodge of Ngāti Whakaue, Te Irimana Waenga of Te Whanau-a-Apanui, Barney Kapuaroa of Gisborne, Tame (Thomas) Karena of Ngāti Kahungunu, Kopu Heremia of Ngāti Raukawa, L/Sgt Hira Parata of Ngati Toa, Cpl Ripene Matoe of Ngāti Ruanui and Hami Ngaheke of Ngāti Pikiahu-Waewae.

Ref: AWNS-19430331-17-3, Sir George Grey Special Collections
However the identity of some of the soldiers remains unknown. It is hoped that providing access to the recordings online will lead to whanau coming forward and those voices being named.

There are also recordings by Lt Rangi Logan of Ngāti Kahungunu (pictured below, image from the heritage collections of Auckland Libraries), Pte Bill Te Anga of Waikato, Maniapoto, Henare Toka of Ngapuhi, and Lt-Col Tiwi Love of Te Ati Awa, who was killed just months later, encouraging their iwi to send more reinforcements.

Ref: AWNS-19421007-18-6, Sir George Grey Special Collections