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A Pākehā goes AWOL to join the Māori Battalion.


A Pākehā goes AWOL to join the Māori Battalion. 

“I don't know how many people know that we had a full Pakeha fighting with us in Italy. He was Lance Corporal C.J. McCalman - Mac as he was called by all, joined us during the Sangro action. He actually belonged to 27 Battalion but was frustrated by the fact that they actually saw very little real action, so Mac went AWOL and joined 28th Battalion and saw action with "B" company at Sangro and Orsognia. To avoid his being charged as AWOL or a deserter, Monty Wikiriwhi applied to have Mac transferred to the Battalion and this was duly done. Mac soon became very adept at Homai and other hand games and could out-cheat most of us. He was built like a front row All Black and going into action was always loaded down like a pack-horse: Food, ammunition, weapons, cooking utensils, you name it, Mac carried it.

He always carried a Bengazi Burner and base, a Billy and pot for tea and fowls and a frying pan for pancakes. You can imagine the clanking of this collection going into action. But we only had to stop for a few minutes and Mac had a cup of tea ready - a chook on the boil and his masterpiece pikelets. He always carried a supply of flour, egg powder, milk powder and a tin of fruit salts (in lieu of baking powder and a tin of butter, and given sufficient time the platoon would soon be sitting down to hot pikelet covered in butter and jam and a cup of hot tea.

On our long marches and going into battle you would find Mac carrying not only his own heavy load, but also packs or heavy weapons belonging to some of the smaller members of the platoon. Mac served with the Battalion from the Sangra to the final stages of the advance on Florence, when Mac, with several members of his platoon received a direct hit and died on the 1st of August 1944. A wonderful mate and soldier and respected by all who knew him.

I feel that his story deserves to be told, particularly in these times, when there seems to be so much tension between the two races. Here was a Pakeha who showed his love and respect for our people in a countless number of ways, and whose blood finally mingled with ours on the Field of Battle.

Aubrey Balzer”
This article appeared in the April 1992 NZ 28 Maori Battalion Reunion booklet


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