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World War II (1939-1945): 28th Māori Battalion

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The 28th (Māori) Battalion was part of the 2nd New Zealand Division, the fighting arm of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF) during the Second World War (1939-45). A frontline infantry unit made up entirely of volunteers, the Battalion usually contained 700-750 men, divided into five companies.

The NZ Division

The NZ Division was made up of 15,000-20,000 men, divided into three infantry brigades (the 4th, 5th and 6th Brigades), plus artillery, engineers, signals, medical and service units. Each brigade initially had three infantry battalions (numbered from 18th to 26th). The 28th (Māori) Battalion was a specially formed battalion that was at times attached to each of the Division's three brigades. Each battalion was commanded by a lieutenant-colonel.

The Māori Battalion

Like the other infantry battalions, the Māori Battalion was divided into five companies: four rifle companies of about 125 men each and a headquarters (HQ) company of around 200 men. Each company was commanded by a major or captain. The Battalion's four rifle companies (named A, B, C and D) were organised along tribal lines, while HQ Company drew its personnel from all over Māoridom. Each rifle company was divided into three platoons led by a lieutenant. Each platoon was in turn made up of three sections of about 10 men led by a non-commissioned officer (NCO). HQ Company was made up of six specialist platoons: signals, anti-aircraft, mortars, Bren Gun Carriers, pioneers and transport.


The main body of the Māori Battalion left New Zealand as part of 2NZEF's 2nd Echelon in May 1940. To maintain its strength throughout the war, especially when heavy losses were suffered, groups of new recruits were regularly sent from New Zealand. 2NZEF's 3rd Echelon sailed for the Middle East in August 1940, followed by the 4th Reinforcements in November and the 5th, 6th and 7th Reinforcements in 1941. The last Māori recruits to see action, part of 2NZEF's 14th Reinforcements, arrived in Italy in April 1945 (the 15th Reinforcements did not reach Egypt until May 1945, after the war in Europe ended).

Counting the cost

In total, almost 3600 men served overseas with the Māori Battalion between 1940 and 1945. Of these, 649 were killed in action or died on active service – more than 10% of the 6068 New Zealanders who lost their lives serving with 2NZEF in the Middle East and Europe. In addition, 1712 men were wounded and 237 were prisoners of war.

In the words of Lieutenant-General Bernard Freyberg, who commanded the 2nd NZ Division, no infantry battalion had a more distinguished record, or saw more fighting, or, alas, had such heavy casualties as the Maori Battalion.

28th Battalion Roll

Please Index by Service Number (available for lookup here), and group by rank'

Commissioned Ranks - New Zealand Army

Lieutenant General

Rank: Brigadier

Rank: Colonel

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Rank: Major

Rank: Captain

Rank: Lieutenant

Rank: Second Lieutenant

Non-Commissioned Ranks - New Zealand Army

Rank: Warrant Officer Class 1

Rank: Warrant Officer Class 2

Rank: Staff Sergeant

Rank: Sergeant

Rank: Bombardier / Corporal

Rank: Lance Bombardier / Lance Corporal

Rank: Gunner, Trooper, Sapper, Signaller, Private