Families of 24 Māori Battalion soldiers receive WWII medals in Upper Hutt

December 17, 2022

The families of 24 Māori Battalion soldiers who fought in World War II have today received their medals at a ceremony in Upper Hutt.

The soldiers' whānau were presented with medals recognising their service and sacrifice at Whirinaki Whare Taonga, the New Zealand Defence Force said in a media release.

The ceremony was attended by Defence Minister Peeni Henare, who helped present the medals alongside four senior New Zealand Army officers.

The New Zealand Defence Force's Chief of Army, Major General John Boswell, said the ceremony was a "significant day to honour the service and sacrifice of those soldiers from 28 (Māori) Battalion all those years ago".

"It’s also an opportunity to recognise the mana they brought to themselves, to their families, the New Zealand Army and New Zealand," he said.

More than 3600 men served in the Māori Battalion. After the war, soldiers could apply for their medals, which were sent in the post.

However, many World War II veterans did not claim their medals.

NZDF Personnel Archives and Medals worked with Te Mata Law's David Stone to determine which families had yet to claim their medals.

"The team from NZDF archives are the unsung heroes of this kaupapa," Colonel Trevor Walker, who helped coordinate the ceremonies on behalf of the New Zealand Army, said.

"They reviewed thousands of files to determine who had received medals and who were yet to claim."

Similar ceremonies have been held in Hawke's Bay, Gisborne, Burnham and Rotorua. Another event will be held at Waitangi next year.

The families of the men who never claimed their medals are entitled to apply for them through the New Zealand Defence Force Personnel Archives and Medals Office.