National | 28th Māori Battalion

Search for whānau of 500 Māori Battalion soldiers who never received war medals

David Stone, Te Ao Tapatahi, 2020.  Source / File

A major effort is underway to track down the whānau of more than 500 Māori Battalion soldiers who never received medals for their WWII service.

Auckland lawyer David Stone's (Ngāi Tāmanuhiri, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Toa, Ngāi Tahu) research, which initially uncovered 134 Māori Battalion soldiers who did not receive medals, has already enabled some whānau to be presented with medals in a ceremony last year.

"There's been so many people who had no idea, and it's fair to say that the families of these 134 soldiers none of them had any idea. If they did, they would have chased it up," Stone told Māori Television's Te Ao Tapatahi in 2020.

"We had one family that said, 'we knew dad fought, we knew he had medals but they got the run around at the time. They didn't know what to do."

Now, after more research, Stone has released the names of a further 500 or more soldiers who also never got their war medals.

"I'm completely confident while we've got a 134 from C Company, which is 15 per cent, I'm completely confident it's at least 15 per cent across all four Māori battalions. So we're looking at over 500 soldiers," Stone said in the Te Ao Tapatahi interview.

Stone, the principal of Te Mata Law which specialises in Treaty and Māori land law, told Te Ao Tapatahi in November 2020 that his motivation for doing this mahi initially stemmed from wanting to honour his great-uncle Dooley (Turi) Swann who was killed serving with the battalion in Italy in 1944 and never received his medals. However, he says his deeper motivation is to help bring closure for whānau.

"It all started by accident. My dad and I were sitting down at home and I said to dad 'our uncle couldn't have been the only one'. Statistically, he couldn't have been the only one out of the whole C Company that never got his medal. So we just started with that question. From there, I wrote to the medals department, got files, sure enough he wasn't," Stone said.

"I've asked myself, other than wanting to honour my uncle, what was my motivation for doing this?  My motivation was to give our people an opportunity, essentially to honour not just their fathers but their brothers. I'm hoping by doing this, when these medals are presented, a lot of our people can close the book and say goodbye."

Stone said whānau have been appreciative of his help, "The warmth and the gratitude from those who turned up. It became crystal clear how grateful they were."

Whānau wanting to apply for the medals need to fill out a New Zealand military medals application form.

Stone encouraged whānau to spread the word, "Our people know who these families are. Māoridom's a small world."

A full list of the soldiers' names can be found here.

Whānau can contact Te Mata Law by emailing: