Maori soldiers not forgotten family

By Tessa Johnstone

The spirit of the 28th Maori Battalion will live on despite the association being wrapped up last week, said the grandson of a Greytown serviceman.

Tyler Matthews, 20, his brother Chaz, 17, and their aunt Christine Ammunson and grandmother Polly Matthews attended a ceremony on behalf of Kingi Matthews on Saturday which formally closed the 28th Maori Battalion Association.

Mr Matthews, a former Maori All Black, still lives in Greytown but was not well enough to attend the ceremony.

There are 26 living members of the association which honoured the 3600 men who served with the 28th Battalion during WWII in campaigns across North Africa, Greece, Crete and Italy.

Less than half of the surviving members are able-bodied.

The decision to wrap up the organisation was made by members earlier this year, said spokesman Matt Te Pou.

"None of them wants to be the last man standing and those who remain just look forward to getting together when they can, to reminisce and to share a meal."

Tyler and Chaz Matthews laid a wreath at the Wellington remembrance service, which Tyler said was done on behalf of his grandfather and for the future generations of young people.

"I had a lot of pride being able to do it, because I've been going to dawn parades and all the get-togethers for a long time ... I've been brought up with it with our family, I know all the old songs and everything."

Tyler said his grandfather was younger than Tyler is now when he joined D company and went to war.

It was getting more difficult for members to get together, said Tyler, so it was time for them to wrap up.

"They can only get together once a year, and half of them can't make it because they're too ill."

Tyler said the spirit of the battalion would live on, through telling the stories to younger people and by continuing to attend dawn parades.

- Wairarapa Times-Age

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