The Price of Citizenship C Company 28 (Maori) Battalion 1939-45
by Monty Soutar
Published by DAVID BATEMAN
Hardback, illustrated, 337 pages including appendix and index
Reviewed by Jim Perry
Nga Tama Toa has power to convince
A committee lead by Dr Soutar has produced this historical record 62 years after Sir Apirana Ngata expressed a wish that someone with local tribal affiliations should do so; this easily read and exciting book has fulfilled Ta Apirana's dream.
He said Maori had to go to war alongside the pakeha to prove they were worthy of recognition in their own land. He saw that not to contribute to World War II would have courted even further discrimination and isolation.
Consequently thousands of Maori men volunteered for active military service, none more than those from Te Tairawhiti.
I experienced a surge of emotions as I read this book. Joy at knowing that here was a comprehensive and in-depth study of the deeds by people from my birthplace; warmth at the enthusiasm with which the youth of the region sought to emulate their fathers and grandfathers; pleasure at so many familiar names; sadness at being reminded of the passing of so many men I knew; delight in the Maori volunteers’ ability to rapidly adapt to military discipline, using the bullring [parade ground] to demonstrate skill and cohesion from people isolated tribally and traditionally, yet capable of acting as one body when needed; pride at the realisation that these warriors had fulfilled the trust placed in them; satisfaction in the contributions made by my relatives and friends among the Maori soldiers so highly admired by friend and enemy alike; enjoyment at the humorous escapades - the impishness, absolute cheek and resourcefulness of the “Terrors From Te Tairawhiti”; anger at the sometimes unrealistic demands placed on 28 Maori Battalion; nostalgia as my journey through the pages revealed more well known names actions until the ultimate photo gallery; and disappointment that, despite 28Bn proving to the world that Maori were peerless fighting soldiers, successive New Zealand remained un-accepting of the plight of Maori in terms of equality of opportunity and status.
The book shows the great amount of research undertaken by Dr Soutar and the team. The face-to-face interviews took many weeks, demonstrating a commitment to fulfilling Sir Apirana Ngata’s wish to have the true story told by an insider.
A beautiful aspect of Nga Tama Toa is its ability to bring to life the people in its pages. The quotations complete with speech peculiarities, are typical Ngati Porou - complete with transliterations - and make the people real for the reader.
Nga Tama Toa has the power to convince the wider community of the priceless contribution Maori made to win the freedom little regarded today. The modern generation largely ignores and takes for granted the selfless sacrifices which the book tries to explain using in the words of those who were there.
A well constructed record of 28Bn during the six years of its existence, Nga Tama Toa stands above anything else written. As a chronicle of the events involving C Company it is superbly presented. It is gripping, exciting and informative and worth the attention it has attracted from families associated with Te Tairawhiti and others. It deserves its place as a book everyone interested in personal records and historical perspectives should have on the home bookshelf. Maori or pakeha the reader will not be disappointed.
Proudly Ngati Porou, Jim Perry is a veteran of active service in peninsular Malaysia and Borneo and is National Secretary of the New Zealand Malaya Veterans Association. A talk-back host on Maori radio he also comments on social issues affecting Maori.