Māori Battalion's sole survivor Sir Robert 'Bom' Gillies calls for peace, not war on Anzac Day

The sole surviving member of the 28th Māori Battalion says if he had his time again he would have been a conscientious objector.

Instead, Sir Robert Gillies - known universally as Bom - enlisted in the NZ Army and served during World War II in north Africa and Italy, including the Battle of Monte Cassino.

Sir Robert (Ngāti Whakaue and Ngāti Kahungunu) is now 98 years old.

He told The Hui presenter Julian Wilcox he takes seriously his responsibility to represent the many men of the 28th Māori Battalion who are no longer alive.

"I used to be just one of the crowd but now I'm the last one left. I've got to front up. It's my duty to do it on behalf of the fellas who all passed on."

For him Anzac Day is a day of remembrance for his mates - those who served, those who came home and those who lie on foreign soil.

Three thousand members of the 28th Māori Battalion went to war - 600 of them didn't come home. Now Sir Robert wonders what they gave their lives for.

"Wars are created for power and money. And it shouldn't be like that. They should be allowed to live their lives out."

Sir Robert told Wilcox he thought of those who served - and particularly those who died - every day. He thinks they died "almost for nothing".

"All the wars they've fought never helped solve anything."

Sir Robert 'Bom' Gillies.
Sir Robert 'Bom' Gillies. Photo credit: The Hui

He said he wished young Māori who've joined today's defence forces had remained in civilian life.

"If I had my time again, knowing what I know now, I would have been a conscientious objector. I would have been slammed by the average Joe. And I thought like that [then] ... But I think they were right to promote peace."

Sir Robert, who has represented the Māori Battalion at events here and overseas for many years, said people need to remember what war is all about.

"It's all about killing people," he said.

"Peace is the best thing out and nobody promotes it."

The full interview with Sir Robert 'Bom' Gillies is on The Hui's Facebook page.

Made with the help of Te Mangai Pāhō and New Zealand on Air.