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6125 Lieutenant George Katene M M – 28th Maori Battalion

George Katene was born in Porirua on 27 September 1915, the son of Te Arohi Marea (Rose) Poeneke and
Te Oti (George) Katene and brother to Wikitoria Katene,[i] George identified with Ngati Toa iwi and Ngati Tu hapū and was raised as part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints[ii].

George grew up in Porirua and was enrolled at the Porirua School in 1922 [iii]and lived in the Porirua region, obtaining
his 4th standard proficiency and eventually going on to work for the Wellington Harbour Board as a labourer. He signed
up to the Territorials in 1933 at the age of 18, and on the outbreak of the Second World War had served six years.

On 9th November 1939 George Katene enlisted in the 28th Māori
Battalion, he gave his mother Mrs Te Arohi Katene, Porirua as his
next of Kin[iv]. On entering Trentham Military Camp 6125 Private
Katene was promoted to Temporary Sergeant and sent to
Palmerston North as one of potential officers and NCO’s for the
Battalion. The temporary rank was made permanent two weeks
later. Sergeant Katene was appointed to the, 28th Māori Bastion,
Head Quarters Company, Mortar section.

                        Sergeant Katene (centre) at Palmerston North          

On 29th April 1940 the battalion was given a farewell at Palmerston
North then were railed to Wellington. On 1st May 1940 the
28th Māori Battalion sailed for Egypt and overseas service.
The threat of Italy entering the war and blocking the Suez Canal meant the troopship was diverted to
South Africa and then to England. Following the Fall of France there was a threat of German invading Britain.
Sergeant Katene landed in Scotland on 5th June 1940 finally on 4th January 1941, with the threat of German invasion lessened, the 28th Māori Battalion left England for Egypt.

The Māori Battalion arrived in Egypt on 4th March 1941 and spent three weeks adapting to the new conditions. On
25th March 1941 the Māori Battalion were loaded for movement to Greece as part of Operation Lustre. Operation Lustre’s aim was support the Greek Forces against invading German & Italian forces. In early April that Sergeant Katene, leading
the battalion’s mortar platoon, took part in his first action against the enemy at the Katerini Plains. Although the battalion put up stiff resistance, they were soon forced to withdraw in to the ports of southern Greece and evacuated to Crete.[v] 
It was for his actions and leadership throughout the campaign in Greece that George was recommended for the Military Medal (MM).

                                                              The operation ended with the Allied forces pushed out of Greece and by May 1941 with                                                                   Māori Battalion members reported ‘safe’ on Crete in 18th May 1941. The Māori Battalion                                                                 was one of the Allied elements defending the island of Crete from the German airborne                                                                 invasion that was launched on 20th May 1941. The Battalion was committed to a                                                                             counter attack to recapture Maleme Airport and it was during this action that Sergeant                                                                   Katene suffered grenade wounds to the thigh and buttocks.[vi] The wounds were
                                                               severe enough for Sergeant Katene to be evacuated to Egypt being admitted to the
                                                               3rd NZ General Hospital on 29th May 1941 and following treatment to the NZ                                                                                   Convalescent Hospital on 2nd June 1941. Sergeant Katene remained in the NZ                                                                                   Convalescent Hospital until 30th June 1941 when he rejoined the battalion’s training                                                                       company. Sergeant Katene was promoted to Warrent Officer, Second Class (WOII) on                                                                     25th August 1941 as the battalion defended the Libya / Egypt border area. On 20th                                                                         September 1941 WOII Katene and 22 other soldiers were presented with gallantry                                                                           awards from the Greek Campaign[vii]

​                                                                  Lieutenant George Katene   c1942-43   
    
                                                               In March 1942 WOII Katene, the Māori Battalion and other elements of the 2nd NZEF where sent to Syria to defend against a potential attack on Middle East oilfields by German Forces positioned in the Caucasus. It also provided an opportunity for retraining, rest and recuperation, The 2nd NZEF units moved back to Egypt
in June 1942 to face the threat of Rommel’s Aftika Korp.

WOII Katene was made a temporary 2nd Lieutenant a promotion that was made permanent of 27th June 1942.
2nd Lieutenant Katene and the battalion were committed to the 2nd Battle of El Alamein in August 1942 and the desert warfare that ended in Tunisia on 13th May 1943 with the defeat of the AXI Forces.

The battalion returned to Egypt in June 1943 for retraining, refitting and recuperation. While in Egypt on 27th June 1943
2nd Lieutenant Katene was promoted to Lieutenant Katene.
On 17th October 1943 the 28th Māori Battalion, part of the 22,000 strong 2nd NZ Division, left Egypt for Italy. The battalion set up base at Taranto before being committed to breaching the German’s Gustav Line near Orsongna. The first action on Italian soil took place as the battalion crossed the Sangro River and approached the town. It was an attempt to make a
right flanking attack to cut the Orsonga to Poggiofiorito Road. On the 7th December 1943 “While Lieutenant Katene was conferring on possible targets for the mortars with 2nd Lieutenant Tomoana and before leaving to visit A Company he
was struck down by enemy fire and killed.”[viii]

6125 Lieutenant George Katene is buried in Moro River, Canadian War Cemetery, Ortona, Chieti, Italy. There are fifty-seven, 2nd NZEF men buried in the cemetery, twelve of them from the 28th Māori Battalion.

The family of George Katene jun posted thanks in the Evening Post in
January 1944[ix]

            KATENE _ Mr and Mrs George Katene and family, of Porirua, desire to
            express their heartful thanks to relatives and kind friends for letters,
            telegrams, cards and personal expressions of sympathy received in the
            loss of their son, Lieut George Katene, jun., M.M. who now lieth and
            sleepeth in the foreign soil and battlefield of Italy.
           Greater love hath no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends.
           Takoto mai etama ite moenga roa Ihinga Toa, Ihinga Rangatira Koutou
           me au hoa maha ite Pae ote Pakanga.

                            Lieutenant Katene's grave Moro River, Canadian War Cemetery      

In August 1944 George’s parents went to Government Houses[x]

           Their Excellencies the Governor General and Lady Newaal received
           privately at Government House this morning the immediate relatives
           of a number of deceased Service personnel, when his Ecellency handed
           to the next-of-kin the decorations mentioned below:
           Military Medal
           Mr & Mrs George Katene, of Porirua, parents of the late
           Lieutenant G Katene, 2nd NZEF

Notes
George’s sister Wikitoria Katene served with the Women’s War Service Auxiliary
Also sailing on the 1st May 1940 was 39528 Sergeant Wi Te Kowha Hau
George Katene is remembered with street in Palmerston North, on the Porirua School Roll of Honour and will be inscribed on the
Porirua Memorial Wall.

References
Palmerston North City Council Window into WW1- Katene Street
Porirua School Jubilee 1873 – 1948
NZ BDM
Paperspast Online
www.28th maoribattalion.org.nz
Archives New Zealand – 28th Māori Battalion Diary
www.ahilatene.com

Photos
Sergeant George Katene : Alexander Turnbull Library
Lieutenant G Katene : Auckland Cenotaph Online 
Lieutenant G Katene M.M. : NZ War Graves project
Aquitania leaves Wellington Harbour with 2nd NZEF 

[i]      NZ BDM
[ii]     PNCC Katene Street
[iii]    Porirua School Jubilee
[iv]    NZDF Archives:6125  Lieutenant George Katene MM
[v]     PNCC Katene Street
[vi]    NZDF Archives:6125  Lieutenant George Katene MM
[vii]   Awards for Gallantry, 20th August 1941, Evening Post
[viii]  PNCC Katene Street
[ix]    Bereavement Notice – Thanks, 6th January 1944
[x]     Battle Honours Decorations Conferred, 22nd August 1944, Evening Post
    

 
Aquitania leaves Wellington Harbour with 2nd NZEF  - May 1940