U-series. Battle history of the Māori Battalion in Italy.
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Staff Sergeant E. H. 'Ted' Nepia (Ngāti Kahungunu) recounts the history of the Māori Battalion from the date it commenced preparations in Egypt for action in Italy.
The Battalion landed at Taranto, Italy, on the 22 October 1943. On the Sangro in December the battalion was in reserve, but at Orsogna they went into action in cild, wet and muddy conditions, attacking a firmly entrenched enemy with little cover for the advancing New Zealanders.
In January 1944 they took over positions previously held by Americans . Their next major engagement in Italy was on the night of 17 February 1944 with the Cassino railway station as the objective. A Company led by Major (James) Henare and B Company lead by Captain (Monty) Wikiriwhi, D.S.O. lead the attack. there were many obstacles and the area was heavily mined. The German machine guns caused terrific casualties but the enemy finally retreated, leaving the Māori battalion to defend the railway station, in heroic action which has become one of the epics of the Italian campaign.
After the order to withdraw, less than a quarter of B Company returned to Headquarters, with Captain Wikiriwhi crawling back a day later, severely wounded. A Company suffered a 50 percent casualty rate.
Next came action at Sora, where C Company suffered heavy casualties. The Battalion rested and then took part in the capture of Florence, where they were some of the first to enter the city riding on New Zealand tanks.
They rested after fighting in these battles and then travelled to the Adriatic coast to join the 8th Army. On the outskirts of Rimini in August they again engaged the enemy, crossing the famous Rubicon river.
Ted Nepia speaks warmly of the beautiful Italian countryside and the warmth of the Italian peasants towards the Māori soldiers.
Fighting over Route 9 near Faenza was next, in December 1944.
Ted says morale in the Battalion is high and pays tribute to Padre Huata. He says the Battalion soldiers are known for always singing, in English and te reo Māori, whether they are marching or resting. He says although thousands of miles from their marae, the men remain truly Māori in every respect.
He ends with greetings in Māori to friends and family in New Zealand
[During Sergeant Nepia's talk, the sound of artillery fire can be heard in the background.
One of the original discs on which this recording was made in Italy carries a wartime military censor's note that the segment of his talk containing reference to the extremely high casualty rate in the Māori Battalion, was to be cut before broadcast.]
Reference number 19985
Media type AUDIO
Collection Sound Collection
Radio field reports
Nonfiction radio programs
Nepia, Ted, Commentator, New Zealand. Army. Expeditionary Force, 2nd. Battalion, 28
New Zealand Mobile Broadcasting Unit, Broadcaster
Date 05 Apr 1945