Maori Battalion soldier laid to rest

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 13:36 12/06/2014

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Another member of the Maori Battalion has died.

The legendary World War II unit sent 3600 men to fight but there are now just 19 left.

The family of Thomas O'Brien, 94, will farewell him at Parawera Marae near Te Awamutu tomorrow.

A private with D Company, he died on Monday with four generations of family present.

One of his grand-daughters, Rose Pukeroa, wrote on the Maori Battalion website that O'Brien had many stories about the unit.

"My favourite is his stories of joining the band, and not been able to play an instrument," she wrote.

During the war - where the battalion mostly fought in North Africa and Italy - 655 of its men were killed or died on active service, 1712 were wounded and 267 were taken prisoner. This casualty rate was almost 50 per cent higher than for other New Zealand infantry battalions.

There are now just over 3000 New Zealand veterans of the war still alive.

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