28th BATTALION REUNION
One of the biggest army reunions held in awke's Bay took place at Waipatu Pa, near the Tomoana showgrounds, when some 2,000 members of the 28th Battalion gathered there from 25 to 27 March.
Scores of willing workers spent almost 12 months preparing for the 5th reunion, which was organised like a military operation. All parts of its administration were delegated to sub-committees carrying military titles.
Commanding Officer of the whole occasion was former Major, Mr T. M. R. Tomoana.
Another former Battalion Major, Mr Ossia Huata, was Regimental Quartermaster, and Mr Bill Toroa, of Gisborne, was Regimental Sergeant-Major.
Mr Anzac Pearse, of Haumona, was Transport Officer, Mr Riki Smith was Provost-Marshal, Mr Henry Matthews was Orderly room Sergeant, Dr L. W. Broughton was Medical Officer and the Rev. K. Te Paenga was Chaplain.
The NCO's were Messrs George Henderson and George Tawhai, Mess Sergeant was Mr John Pene, and Sergeant Cooks were Messrs S. Pineaha and T. Cooper.
To reduce traffic, guests were asked to leave their cars at home. They were transported to and from reunion functions in buses hired by the committee.
Mr Tomoana, the reunion's Commanding Officer, said that the people of Hawke's Bay had been very generous in their donations of money and food for the occasion. The organising committee had received money totalling £1,400 as well as many gifts of food, including 18 bullocks, 29 pigs and tons of vegetables.
In addition, local people had given hundreds of man-hours of free labour to build a cook-house and an ablutions block on the Waipatu marae. Mr Tomoana said this was a permanent asset, valued at something like £5,000.
The reunion began in the afternoon, when Battalion members were welcomed to the marae. With only about 200 there for the start, the ranks filled steadily throughout the afternoon as men and their wives arrived at Waipatu from all parts of New Zealand.
Proceedings began with a challenge by Mr Sam Paenga, who laid the baton at the feet of Brigadier G. D. Dittmer, first Commander of the Battalion. The baton accepted, the visitors were received in peace.
Many speakers then extended a welcome. They extolled the courage of the Maori Battalion and paid tribute to those who had died. By the time the last of the representatives of the visitors had returned thanks for the welcome, the afternoon was drawing in.
Action songs were performed by groups from the Waipatu Club, Hukarere Maori Girls' College, Napier, and St. Joseph's Maori Girls' College, Greenmeadows.
March Through Hastings
In one of the most moving ceremonies Hastings has seen, former members marched through Hastings on Sunday 27 March. Led by a combined Ratana and Hamuera brass band, the men marched to cheers and applause from onlookers.
In front of the Hall of Memories and the Memorial Library they were met by a guard of honour from Hawke's Bay Maori schools. As devotions began, members snapped to attention, and together with many from the large crowd they joined the girls of St. Joseph's Convent in singing Kia Tata Mai Koe — Nearer My God to Thee.
After addresses from Rev. K. Te Paenga and Father N. Denning. Brigadier Dittmer laid the Battalion wreath in front of a plaque to the fallen.
The hamn Abide with Me was sung and then survivors from A Company. Brigadiers D. McIntyre and Dittmer, and the Mavor of Hastings. Mr R. V. Giorgi, led the Battalion slowly through the Hall of Memories beneath Peter McIntyre's mural of the fighting men of New Zealand in the desert.
The men then slowly marched to the Cenotaph, where they were addressed by the Rt Rev. J. T. Holland, Bishop of Waikato, who asked that the bereaved, the wounded and the dead be remembered and spoke of the fine
spirit of the Battalion. He said that he believed the Battalion had a greater task to perform today than it had during the war: it had to use its enthusiasm and dedication to fight the real war of today, which was not between men and nations, but between good and evil.
Bishop Holland's address was followed by the hymn the Battalion sang before battle, Au, e Ihu tirotea.
Wreaths were laid on the Cenotaph and the Last Post and Reveille were sounded. They were followed by the final farewell to the dead, which was sung with great emotion.
The ceremony over, some of the solemnity was dispelled. Led by the Hawke's Bay Scottish Pipe Band, men of the 28th Maori Battalion marched light-heartedly back through the streets.
After the march more than 2,000 people gathered on the Waipatu marae for the regimental dinner. Under two vast marquees they dined on such fare as steamed chicken, pork, beef, fish, puha, watercress and other vegetables. In the cookhouse, about 30 women prepared food at speed after first having cooked it in the huge pressure cookers. On the marae children played unconcernedly among the tents.
During the dinner 26 toasts and replies were made. The Waipatu marae, seat of the first Maori Parliament, rang once more with the voices of Maori orators.
The speeches recalled old battles, and paid tribute after tribute to the warriors of the Battalion and those associated with them.