Play

00:00

/

00:00

Full screen
Video quality

Low 0 MB

High 0 MB

HD 0 MB

Captions
Volume
Volume
Hero image for Māori Battalion - March to Victory

Māori Battalion - March to Victory

Television (Full Length) – 1990

Director's reflections

The Māori Battalion presents us with one of the great stories of our country. The ranks of surviving veterans are thinning out quickly, and within all too few years, the last of them will have gone into that night.

When we made the documentary we knew we were dealing with a tragic and noble, but vital part of our Nation's story. We treated it seriously and aimed beyond recording the mere facts of the war of these men - to trying to capture how they felt about it. I think we achieved that.

The process of filming the doco itself was pretty complex and difficult. It was an awful lot of work, but also an awful lot of fun.

The crew and I felt humble before all that they had done when they were young men. And I asked myself ... would I have gone to fight with the Māori Battalion, if I was them, way back then? And as much as I deplore war, I'd have to say yes. And actually, that frightens me.

Back to top

A perspective

Maori Battalion - March To Victory was produced in 1990 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Māori Battalion and it first screened during Anzac week of that year.

This feature documentary, directed and produced by Tainui Stephens, places the Māori war effort within a context of history and a national identity that is forged in war. 

When it screened, New Zealand was only two generations removed from World War Two (and one generation from Vietnam). The country was also commemorating 150 years since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The screening connected the memories of the aging soldiers to an emerging awareness amongst its audience, particularly young people, of the sacrifices made by their tupuna during the war.

The (28th) Māori Battalion was part of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force during WWII and was formed as a result of pressure on the Labour government by the Māori MPs and groups throughout the country.

This Battalion, followed in the footsteps of Te Hokowhitu-a-Tu, the Pioneer (Māori) Battalion of WWI. It was divided into companies that were organised on a tribal basis. The formation of the battalion represented the first time that so many of New Zealand's Māori tribes united as one in battle.

Another landmark was that the Māori Battalion would produce the first Māori - Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu (Ngāti Porou, Te Whanau-a-Apanui) - to receive the Victoria Cross, the highest award for valour conferred on members of the armed forces of the Commonwealth. This was an ironic honour in that Victoria Crosses had been awarded to British soldiers fighting against Māori in the New Zealand Wars.

Sir Apirana Ngata cited the Māori involvement in the war efforts as being the ultimate price for the privilege of New Zealand citizenship. The death toll for the Māori Battalion was high: two-thirds of the 3500 thousand Māori soldiers were injured or killed. The loss meant post-war New Zealand was robbed of the potential of nearly an entire generation of Māori men.

The five servicemen profiled in the documentary represent the four ‘companies' (A, B, C and D) that comprised the Battalion. Ngarimu Moana, VC, who died in action, is represented by his grandniece Paula Walker. She accompanies the veterans as they recount their memories in true ‘war stories' style filled with laughter, fear, tension, wonderment, regret and tears.

Focusing on the sentiments was a self-conscious decision by Stephens "We treated it seriously and aimed beyond recording the mere facts of the war of these men - to trying to capture how they felt about it. I think we achieved that."

In Crete, Ben Porter recalls how he was shot at but survived because the German bullet went down the barrel of his own rifle. In the North African desert Bully Jackson remembers the shock and awe of war, and the loneliness he felt for the daughter who was born after he had left home. Don Stewart tells how it feels to kill; and at the Souda Bay cemetery in Crete, he weeps at the grave of his slain brother Horton.

Hemi Wiremu takes us to the small German town where he was once a prisoner of war and meets up with one of his former guards in what is now a police college. Padre Wi Huata delivers a eulogy to the Māori Battalion from Tebaga Gap in Tunisia where Moana Ngarimu fought, died, and earned the Victoria Cross. In Italy, the old soldiers share wine, food and song with the citizens who they once helped to liberate from Nazism and Fascism.

Maori Battalion - March to Victory features extensive archive footage. Images of the 1940 arrival of the Māori soldiers in England was found in European archives. It is shown for the very first time.

Other material includes Maori Battalion Returns, shot by the National Film Unit at the conclusion of the war. It features the arrival of the Dominion Monarch at Pipitea wharf and the return of these sons of the god of war to their home marae.

The documentary concludes with a moving tribute in image and song to the men of the (28th) Māori Battalion. It evokes the many and sometimes conflicting emotions that are spawned by the unbearable cost of war.

This is the coda to a story about brothers in arms: ordinary soldiers made extraordinary in the worst of times - and because of whose sacrifice we enjoy the best of times.

It was director Tainui Stephens' first production with full creative control. At the time he made this documentary he had been employed by TVNZ for five years, as a reporter, producer and director.

In 2006 Māori Television re-screened it as part of their inaugural all-day coverage of Anzac Day. Stephens was co-executive producer for that television event which won the 2007 Air NZ Screen award for Best Event Broadcast.

Back to top

If you liked this, you might also like...

Collection
Collection image for Anzac Day Collection

Anzac Day Collection

This collection brings together 50+ titles covering Kiwis...

Collection
Collection image for The Matariki Collection

The Matariki Collection

A selection of iconic Māori TV, film and music video for...

Thumbnail image for Review - Hone Tuwhare

Review - Hone Tuwhare

An interview with a young Tuwhare who was in the Māori...

Thumbnail image for Tama Tū

Tama Tū

Short film about a Māori soldiers fighting in WWII...

Thumbnail image for Howard Morrison Special - Hamilton

Howard Morrison Special - Hamilton

A Howard Morrison performance featuring the Māori...

Thumbnail image for 2006 Māori Television Anzac Day Coverage - Nā Rātou, Mō Tātou

2006 Māori Television Anzac Day Coverage - Nā Rātou, Mō Tātou

2006 Māori Television Anzac Day coverage

Thumbnail image for River Queen

River Queen

Also produced by Tainui Stephens

Thumbnail image for Weekly Review No. 232 - Māori Battalion Returns

Weekly Review No. 232 - Māori Battalion Returns

A short documentary about the Māori Battalion from 1946

Thumbnail image for Turangawaewae / A Place to Stand

Turangawaewae / A Place to Stand

A short film about a Vietnam War vet

Thumbnail image for The New Zealand Wars
Series

The New Zealand Wars

The history of Māori vs Pākehā conflict directed by...

Thumbnail image for Tuwhare

Tuwhare

Hone Tuwhare was in the Māori Battalion

Thumbnail image for War Stories

War Stories

Includes Queenie's Story - a Māori woman's war story

Thumbnail image for Ngarimu V.C

Ngarimu V.C

A doco on a Māori Battalion Victoria Cross winner

Thumbnail image for Rain of the Children

Rain of the Children

Also produced by Tainui Stephens

Thumbnail image for Turangaarere: The John Pohe Story

Turangaarere: The John Pohe Story

Another story of Māori war heroism

Thumbnail image for Reluctant Hero

Reluctant Hero

A documentary about Maori VC winner Willie Apiata

Thumbnail image for Loose Enz - Coming and Going

Loose Enz - Coming and Going

Drama set during World War Two

Thumbnail image for French Connection

French Connection

Another doco featuring Kiwi war veterans in Europe

Thumbnail image for Pounamu - Āpirana Ngata 1874 - 1950

Pounamu - Āpirana Ngata 1874 - 1950

Profile of a modern day Māori leader

Thumbnail image for The Years Back - 4, The New Decade (Episode Four)

The Years Back - 4, The New Decade (Episode Four)

New Zealand enters the war

Thumbnail image for Lost in Libya

Lost in Libya

This doco looks at Kiwis in The Long Range Desert Group

Thumbnail image for The Years Back - 5, The Desert (Episode Five)

The Years Back - 5, The Desert (Episode Five)

The New Zealand Division in the Libyan Desert war

Thumbnail image for The Years Back - 8, Making Do (Episode Eight)

The Years Back - 8, Making Do (Episode Eight)

The war on the home front

Thumbnail image for The Years Back - 10, The Final Peace (Episode 10)

The Years Back - 10, The Final Peace (Episode 10)

The war nears its climax

Thumbnail image for Marae DIY - Manutuke Marae (Series Three Episode)

Marae DIY - Manutuke Marae (Series Three Episode)

The dining room at Manutuke Marae is a battalion tribute

Thumbnail image for Return from Crete

Return from Crete

Māori Battalion in evacuation of Crete

Thumbnail image for Weekly Review No. 195 - New Zealand Celebrates VE Day

Weekly Review No. 195 - New Zealand Celebrates VE Day

NZ celebrates Victory in Europe

Thumbnail image for Weekly Review No. 183

Weekly Review No. 183

Māori Battalion soldiers roast a pig in this newreel

Thumbnail image for War Years

War Years

Compilation of WWII newsreels

Thumbnail image for Journey to Arras

Journey to Arras

Features men of the Pioneer Māori Battalion in WWI

Thumbnail image for Weekly Review No. 249 - New Zealand and World War II

Weekly Review No. 249 - New Zealand and World War II

A postwar survey of wartime newsreels

Thumbnail image for Let My Whakapapa Speak

Let My Whakapapa Speak

Tainui Stephens also directed this Kohanga Reo documentary

Thumbnail image for Great War Stories 1 - Rikihana Carkeek

Great War Stories 1 - Rikihana Carkeek

The story of a Māori World War I soldier

Thumbnail image for Compilation - Memories of Service 1

Compilation - Memories of Service 1

Interviews with NZ war veterans

Thumbnail image for Memories of Service 1 - John Wills

Memories of Service 1 - John Wills

Interview with WWII veteran

Thumbnail image for Mercury Lane - Series One, Episode 13

Mercury Lane - Series One, Episode 13

Te Ariki Campbell mourns his Māori Battalion brother

Thumbnail image for Marae DIY - Rongomaraeroa-o-nga-hau e wha Marae (Series 11, Episode Three)

Marae DIY - Rongomaraeroa-o-nga-hau e wha Marae (Series 11, Episode Three)

The NZ Army marae gets a makeover

Thumbnail image for Memories of Service 2 - Roye Hammond

Memories of Service 2 - Roye Hammond

War memories from Crete and Libya

Thumbnail image for The Hill

The Hill

A short film directed by Tainui Stephens

Thumbnail image for Rere Ki Uta, Rere Ki Tai (The Journey)

Rere Ki Uta, Rere Ki Tai (The Journey)

Directed by Tainui Stephens

Thumbnail image for Monte Cassino 60 Years On

Monte Cassino 60 Years On

Documentary on the Battle of Monte Cassino

Thumbnail image for The Black Legacy

The Black Legacy

Documentary on a Māori soldier who fought at Cassino

Thumbnail image for NZ Wars - Stories of Waitara

NZ Wars - Stories of Waitara

Māori fighting against the Crown in the 1800s

Thumbnail image for When the Haka Became Boogie - The Showbands (Episode Two)

When the Haka Became Boogie - The Showbands (Episode Two)

Also directed by Tainui Stephens

Thumbnail image for 50 Years of New Zealand Television: 7 - Taonga TV

50 Years of New Zealand Television: 7 - Taonga TV

Documentary on 50 years of Māori programmes

Thumbnail image for Encounter - A Question of Principle

Encounter - A Question of Principle

More New Zealanders fighting fascism

Thumbnail image for Memories of Service 4 - Steve Danes

Memories of Service 4 - Steve Danes

Memories of serving in the Italian Campaign