Rotorua Museum gathering untold stories of B Company 28th Māori Battlion soldiers
Friday, 11 November 2022
The stories of heroism, camaraderie and sacrifice of the men who served in the 28th Māori Battalion B Company in World War 2 have captivated locals and visitors alike for decades.
But with a roll of nearly 1000 soldiers in B Company alone, many of these stories remain unknown to the public.
It is these stories Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa is hoping to bring to light.
As the nation commemorates the 104th anniversary of Armistice Day, 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 WWII 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 WWII 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, uplift 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 for many whānau, 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.
“It’s a real privilege to hear these stories, and 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, please fill out this questionnaire: