A Kaeo soldier who commanded the legendary A Company of the 28th Maori Battalion will be the focus of Anzac Day commemorations in the Whangaroa town later this month.

Major William Porter, also known as William Poata and Ben Porter, was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery after leading an attack in the North African desert that captured and destroyed 16 German machine gun posts in 1942.

Major William Porter of Kaeo commanded A Company of the 28th Maori Battalion.
Major William Porter of Kaeo commanded A Company of the 28th Maori Battalion.

The citation accompanying his award said he "led his company with fine dash and determination and his courage and leadership were inspiring". He survived the war and died in 1998.

The 28th Maori Battalion's website says Porter had driven a group of would-be soldiers to their medical in his Kaeo taxi, was somehow talked into stripping for an examination himself, and was passed A1. Next thing, as he recalled, it was, "Look out Rommel, here comes Ben".


An exhibition featuring World War II photos, memorabilia and other taonga, including many previously unseen photographs of A Company members and Major Porter, will open at 5pm on Friday, April 22, at Whangaroa Memorial Hall in Kaeo.

Members of Major Porter's whanau will be present at the opening. The free exhibition will run until the end of Anzac Day, April 25.

The show is just one event planned by Whangaroa Armed Services Commemorations 2016 in conjunction with the RSA, marae, schools, businesses, church leaders and Defence Force personnel.

Other events include a non-denominational church service and a bus tour of Whangaroa's wartime sites and cemeteries.

Anzac Day itself will be marked with a dawn service at Te Patunga Marae and a 10am parade down Leigh St led by the RSA. This year is the centenary of the founding of the RSA.