Rotorua Weekender

Seeking stories from the battalion

Call for B Company of the Māori Battalion

- — Supplied content

Rotorua Museum is looking for the stories of those who fought in the B Company of the Māori Battalion in World

War II.

Nearly 1000 men from around the Bay of Plenty, Rotorua and Taupō fought in B Company, but a lot of their stories remain unknown to the public.

Rotorua Museum is connecting with whānau to collect the untold stories of those who served with the 28th Māori Battalion B Company and uncover more unsung heroes of Te Arawa, and beyond.

This engagement process will be carried out over the coming months to help shape the new 28th Māori Battalion exhibition when the Museum reopens.

The museum team is seeking whānau members like Zorah Ngahuia Bidois, who recently registered to claim the medals of her uncle Whitiora (Tommy) Mita.

Tommy was captured early on in World War II and spent most of the war as a prisoner.

“He was a lovely, gentle person. He was always a lot of fun, so if the war changed him, he never let it show.

“He didn’t talk about the war, nobody really did, but he did use to say he felt like he cheated death because he was captured early while others fought and died.”

A young child at the time, Zorah’s memory of World War II and its aftermath was the blackouts and rations, but she says the stories from soldiers need to be passed down and remembered.

“It’s important our children and every generation after is reminded that their tūpuna fought so we could have a better life.

“So many whānau had multiple men go off to war; it was significan­t for our whānau and every man came back with their own stories. These stories all deserve to be retold and remembered.”

Rotorua Museum curator mātauranga Māori, Manaaki Pene, says redevelopi­ng the museum’s 28th Māori Battalion B Company exhibition with added stories and insights will give people a chance to learn about, and commemorat­e the memory of those who served. “When the museum was open, The 28th Māori Battalion B Company exhibition was an incredibly popular and special part of the experience, and while it was an emotional space, it also provided an opportunit­y to remember and share those stories.

“It is whānau across the rohe who hold the knowledge of the lesser known stories from this time in history, and it is these that we would like to capture and share for the benefit of the whole community.”

Rotorua Museum operations manager, Jo Doherty, says the team is eager to build on what is already known about the 28th Māori Battalion B Company. “So many of the stories we know are about the soldiers themselves, but we also want to dig deeper and understand how their whānau coped at home during that time ... We want to make sure that when the museum reopens, the exhibition captures all the elements whānau want to see.”

If you have tūpuna who served with the B Company — 28th Māori Battalion in Greece, Crete, North Africa or Italy from 1940 to 1945 and would like to contribute to the Rotorua Museum exhibition, fill out a questionna­ire at

 ?? Photo / Courtesy of Nepia Maniapoto ?? A group cheers the 28 Maori Batallion tug of war team, Cairo 1941.
Photo / Courtesy of Nepia Maniapoto A group cheers the 28 Maori Batallion tug of war team, Cairo 1941.

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