Regional | ANZAC

Māori Battalion veteran to play role in Auckland ceremony

Sir Robert Gillies, the sole surviving member of the Māori battalion. Photo / Stephen Parker

The last surviving member of 28 Māori Battalion, Sir Robert “Bom” Gillies, will make a remote contribution to a special ceremony in Auckland today.

The battalion is being honoured with a special plaque at Kāhui St David’s Presbyterian church in Grafton.

Lawyer David Stone, who has been helping uri across the country get their whānau medals, says because Gillies needs to be at Anzac Day services in Rotorua the next morning he will read the Ode from his own home.

Stone says the role the 99-year-old is playing as the last representative of the esteemed battalion could be seen from the response of Italians during a trip to the battleground at Monte Cassino last year.

“The Italian people, they would come up to him and when they found that who he was they would drop to their knees, tears were pouring down, they would kiss his hands, they would kiss his face and they would just say ‘Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for our freedom. Thank you for our liberty.’ The Italian people, they certainly hadn’t forgotten and the gratitude towards him, it was humbling.”

Meanwhile, Whakaata Māori will have its full day coverage of Anzac Day on Thursday, starting with coverage of the Dawn Service from C Company Māori Battalion Memorial House in Gisborne and for the Dawn Service at Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

Apirana Ngata leads the haka at the opening of the wharenui at Waitangi during the centennial celebrations of 1940. Photo / UNKNOWN, Alexander Turnbull Library, MNZ27461/2F

The words of Sir Apirana Ngata from his 1943 treatise on Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu VC, ‘The Price of Citizenship,’ provide the theme of this year’s broadcast: ‘Kia Kotahi Rā! We are of one house, and if our Pākehā brothers fall, we fall with them.’

The full day of Anzac programming, the 19th year of Whakaata Māori coverage, includes live crosses to the Auckland War Memorial Museum Dawn Service, and Gallipoli commemorations in Turkey.

Veteran broadcaster Julian Wilcox (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa) will be joined in Gisborne by military historian Dr Monty Soutar (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Porou). Peata Melbourne (Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu) from Whakaata Māori flagship news programme, Te Ao Mārama will be the host at the Dawn Service in Auckland.

The special Anzac broadcast will include several features and expert commentary.

Features include a tour through C Company Māori Battalion Memorial House.

There’s a closer look at Ngata, regarded as the “father of the Māori Battalion” and the background to his seminal work, The Price of Citizenship, to be followed by feature documentaries, films and other dedicated programming.

Anzac Day schedule:

5.40 AM - Anzac 2024: Gisborne and Auckland Dawn Services - Whakaata Māori presents live coverage of Anzac Day services. This year from the dawn service at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, as well as the service from Gisborne.

8am - Documentary: Vapnierka – Vapnierka is a town in Ukraine. It is also where Pouramua Nihoniho, the only son of Ngāti Porou leader Pakanui Nihoniho, died. Vapnierka is the story of how a family came to terms with the loss of a beloved son by passing on that legacy to a child from the next generation.

9.00am - Documentary: Whitiki! – The stories of three Māori Pioneers who fought in WWI, through the eyes of their descendants.

11.00am - Documentary: Te Rongo Toa Anzac Special – Anzac Day music special showcasing songs of war presented by Francis Tipene of The Casketeers’ fame.

12.00pm - Feature documentary: Revealing Gallipoli – An award-winning, in depth look at what happened on Australia’s most revered place of battle. Revealing Gallipoli tells the stories of hardship and survival from several different perspectives.

1.35pm - Documentary: Paradise Soldiers – This documentary reveals the sacrifice, shares the personal stories and celebrates the contribution of the Cook Island soldiers to the New Zealand armed forces from WW1 through Vietnam and to the present day.

Anzac Day 2023 dawn parade in Whanganui.

2.25pm - Live: Anzac Day service from Gallipoli

3.25pm - Documentary: Tāonga: Treasures of our Past – Retells precious Māori stories of romance, betrayal, politics and war. Til Death Do Us Part: Oha and Albie Bennett’s incredible tale of two coins, a soldier’s passion and one woman’s faith that would never die.

3.55pm - Documentary: Tāonga: Treasures of our Past: Retells precious Māori stories of romance, betrayal, politics and war. Arapeta Awatere - A Soldier’s Story: Arapeta Awatere was a distinguished Māori leader - so why did he spend his last years in Mt Eden Prison, convicted of murder?

4.25pm - Film: Breaker Morant – Three Australian lieutenants are court-martialled for executing prisoners as a way of deflecting attention from war crimes committed by their superior officers.

6.15pm - Short film: Koro’s Medals – When Billy loses his grandfather’s precious war medal, getting it back is the least of his worries.

6.30pm - News: Te ao Mārama – Whakaata Māori flagship news bulletin presented by Peata Melbourne. (Māori with English subtitles)

7.00pm - Documentary: Te Kaiwhakaahua Pakanga, The Shooter of War – The heroic and tragic stories behind Major Walter Downs Piiti Wordley’s secret WW2 photos and diary of Māori Battalion life in WW2.

8.00pm - Documentary: Stephen Fry: Willem and Frieda – Defying the Nazis – Stephen Fry investigates the inspiring and moving story of a gay man and a lesbian who led anti-Nazi resistance in Holland.

9.25pm - Feature film: Balloon – East Germany, 1979. After initially failing to flee from the East to the West in a self-built hot-air balloon, two families struggle to make a second attempt, while the East German State Police are chasing them.

11.35pm - News: Te Ao Marama – Whakaata Māori flagship news programme presented by Peata Melbourne.

12.05am - WHAKAMUTUNGA: Closedown

- NZ Herald