Members of the Maori Battalion who had fought in Greece perform a Haka for the King of Greece at Helwan, Egypt in June 1941. The battalion fought during the Greek, North African and Italian campaigns during which it earned a formidable reputation as a fighting force which has subsequently been acknowledged by both Allied and German commanders. After several confrontations with them, Erwin Rommel remarked: “Give me the Maori Battalion and I will conquer the world”.
Over 3,600 men served in the Maori Battalion. Over 1700 of those men were wounded and 649 were killed or died of their wounds. This sacrifice did not go unnoticed. The unit was among the most highly decorated for individual bravery of all the New Zealand forces. The people of New Zealand welcomed these volunteers home, and continue to honor them by upholding their legacy with memorials and vigils.
The performance is the Maori traditional Haka. Haka is a traditional ancestral war cry, dance or challenge from the Māori people of New Zealand. It is a posture dance performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment. Haka are performed for various reasons: for amusement, as a hearty welcome to distinguished guests, or to acknowledge great achievements, occasions or funerals.
War haka were originally performed by warriors before a battle, proclaiming their strength and prowess in order to intimidate the opposition. Various actions are employed in the course of a performance, including facial contortions such as showing the whites of the eyes and poking out the tongue, and a wide variety of vigorous body actions such as slapping the hands against the body and stamping of the feet. As well as chanted words, a variety of cries and grunts are used.