28th Maori Battalion Canteen Truck
Te Rau Aroha
During World War II Te Rau Aroha was driven and looked after throughout the North African and Italian Campaigns by the legendary canteen keeper Charlie Bennet MBE. Charlie, a Pakeha serviceman, was affectionately known by the soldiers as “Charlie Y.M.” (The Y.M. coming from the initials YMCA). The truck was a gift to the 28th Maori Battalion from children of the Native Schools of New Zealand. When the Maori community decided to send their men to war with a special gift, an appeal for funds went around the schools. The target was 850 pounds, (about $1700 at the time). The response was magnificent. In just six months the schools grew vegetables for sale and ran concerts and stalls; children also dug into their moneyboxes. The final total was 1000 pounds ($2000 at the time), a lot of money in those days.
To the soldiers of the 28th (Maori) Battalion, Te Rau Aroha was more than a canteen. They had hastened to its assistance when it was in trouble on the desert; they had protected it, they had shown concern for its safety when it was overdue; they had sought it out in the night just to satisfy themselves that it was still there in the convoy. It had represented to them everything they held dear to home; and the inscription on the side, “presented to the Maori Battalion as a token of love by the Children of Native Schools of New Zealand” was written on the hearts of the brave men of the 28th (Maori) Battalion.