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Matene Waetford – marching through Kaikohe
Matene, a soldier who travelled home with the 28th Māori Battalion, talks about his perspective on marching through the township.
At the end of the Second World War, the soldiers of the 28th Māori Battalion returned to their homes.
Sir James Henare and the soldiers of A Company wound up as a Company in the North. Matene Waetford shares his memories of the day they marched through the main road of Kaikohe.
My memories of that even at that time, despite what the public wanted, I had a different view, why on earth were we directed to proceed through the town, into the town centre then back around to the marae? I said to my uncle Hēmi, “Hēmi, we are being mistreated by the Pākehā here. It’s as if we are ornaments, being wheeled out for them to look at, so they can have a good stare at us going along.” I didn’t agree with what was proposed. My uncle turned round and said to me, “My son, this is not just about you. We will do this in a dignified manner. Don’t think just because we have been away to war that we can dispense with feelings for our people back at home here.” This was very difficult for me, but what he said was correct. I couldn’t help myself and I said to him, “We are not showpieces”. That was my reply to my elder. But his strength was that he knew how to phrase his thoughts, he knew how to express himself whereas I held on to my feelings, full of impatience at what was happening.