Maori and Australian soldiers - Ian Thorpe (part 2)

Submitted by Editorial team on Wednesday, 16 April 2008 - 11:52am

Extracts from an interview with Paul Diamond, 9 November 2007

Reproduced with permission of Ian Thorpe

Writing in a report towards the end of his tour, Lt Col LR Greville, commander of the ANZAC Battalion noted that 'it is probably true to say that [Kiwi soldiers] require more sympathetic handling than their counterparts'. As second in charge of the Battalion, Ian Thorpe explains the background to this.

You know we have when our companies came out from a long operation [because] we'd have a night when there would be barbecued food, two cans of beer and no operational duties and the lads would wear a football jersey and shorts or something, play their guitars and sing and he found the boisterousness of our guys and the close familiarity of our officers with their soldiers something strange. But that was Colonel Greville. Not all Australians would feel that but he was, if you like, autocratic in his style. He kept a distance from all his officers whereas Charlesworth before him would lead the singing, if you see what I mean.

A different style?

Yes. He had a different style of command and that's quite alright. But New Zealanders he found a bit of a mystery and the Maori singing and guitar playing and boisterousness and touch rugby and stuff, I think it rather startled him to see these big warriors. This does happen. We've seen it in Fiji the same thing, that Europeans visiting Fiji are intimidated by the massive muscles and big hello.

Did he ever raise it as an issue?

Only one day when he called me in and said 'Your boys were singing quite late last night'. And I said 'Yes'. He said 'Do you think that's a good thing?' I said 'Yes. To us it's an indicator of good morale and contentedness'. He said 'Well doesn't it strike you then that not everybody wants to have their ears full of Maori singing?' I said 'Well you know, I'll talk to my people'. And I did say to them, look if you're in the big recreation tent and there's some Australians wanting to listen to music or write letters, for God's sake take the guitars outside.


Vietnam War Oral History Project, Manatu Taonga Ministry for Culture & Heritage

How to cite this page: ' Maori and Australian soldiers - Ian Thorpe (part 2) ', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 10-Sep-2013