Rotorua Museum hosts talk by Sir Wira Gardiner KNZM

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Former professional soldier and celebrated war historian Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Sir Wira Gardiner KNZM will share his war stories with Rotorua locals on Thursday 19 April 2018 at 5pm.

Hosted by Rotorua Museum, the free talk will explore the fierce World War Two battle at Takrouna, North Africa and will take place at the Rotorua Council Chambers.

Over two days in April 1943 an epic battle was fought by a handful of men from B Company 28 Māori Battalion, led by Lance Sergeant Haane Manahi. It was described by British Commander General Horrocks as “the most gallant feat of arms I have witnessed in the course of the war, to this day I do not know how it was captured in the face of tenacious enemy”.

Manahi’s courage under fire and exemplary leadership saw an immediate recommendation for a Victoria Cross forwarded through army channels. Despite his bravery he was denied a Victoria Cross. After the war, a number of efforts led by Sir Charles Bennett to retrospectively award Manahi a Victoria Cross were also turned down.

Hear about the battle and its aftermath from Lt Col (Rtd) Sir Wira Gardiner KNZM, author of the History of B Company which is to be published later this year.

Born in Whakatane, Sir Wira was educated at Whakatane High School, Canterbury University and King’s College, London. His diverse career path has seen him serve as a professional soldier and senior public servant and for the last 20 years he has been a businessman, researcher and author.

In 1992 Sir Wira wrote a military history on the 28 Māori battalion using interviews and available archival resources. In May 2016, Sir Wira travelled to Greece and Crete to visit battle sites where the NZ Division fought in April and May 1941, matching the theory from his book with the actual locations of the battles.

The 28 Māori Battalion was involved in some of the fiercest fighting of World War Two. Their exploits are legendary, but the price was great as the battalion suffered the highest casualty rate of any within the New Zealand Division, with one in six men killed.

The Māori Battalion’s four rifle companies were organised along tribal lines, partly following the boundaries of the four Māori parliamentary electorates at the time. Each company had its own nickname, reflecting the history and character of its main recruiting area. B Company, centered on Te Arawa and the Mataatua tribes, was called the Penny Divers (Ngā Ruku Kapa) – a reference to the practice of diving for coins to entertain tourists in the Whakarewarewa thermal region.                                                                                                                      

For more information on the talk visit


For further information:

Kathy Nicholls, Communications & Marketing Coordinator,

Arts & Culture Division, Rotorua Lakes Council

P: 07 351 7831 C: 0276 741 898 E:

Image credit: Sir Wira Gardiner. Photograph courtesy of subject


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