Echoing the resilience of our Kiwi spirit, 98-year-old Sir Robert Gillies, World War II veteran and the last living warrior from the 28th Māori Battalion, has found himself with a set of snazzy wheels, with a little help from the Mobility Centre. This isn’t just about upgrading Sir Robert’s ride; it’s a full-on salute to a life lived remarkably and in service to our community.
Picture this: Sir Robert, a man born on a day meant for love, February 14, 1925, in the picturesque Hawke’s Bay. At the age of 17, he decided that his calling was to enlist and serve in the Māori Battalion during World War II. The journey wasn’t a walk in the park. Sir Robert faced challenges and danced with danger, including a little tango at the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy. His resilience and dedication earned him not one but two knighthoods — one from the Italians and another from our own proud New Zealanders.
Gary Darkes, Mobile Sales Manager across the Waikato and Bay of Plenty areas, showing Sir Robert Gillies how to drive his new scooter.
Sir Robert, being the quintessential Kiwi, initially waved away the offer of a New Zealand knighthood, insisting that others had made grander sacrifices without the fanfare. He eventually accepted the honour, not for himself but for the courageous comrades who stood shoulder to shoulder with him in the Māori Battalion.
Beyond his military exploits, Sir Robert is a fierce advocate for Māori rights. This year, after 76 long years, his tenacity led to the acknowledgment of the 28th Māori Battalion’s full Battle Honours. He’s also been on a mission, making sure that the medals owed to his battalion’s soldiers find their rightful place with their whānau. It turns out, many were blissfully unaware they had medals to claim.
Despite the years ticking by, Sir Robert is no idle bystander in his community. However, the passage of time has played a trick on his mobility. Sir Robert’s son, Aaron Morrison, reached out to the Mobility Centre, seeking a quote for a scooter.
The Mobility Centre didn’t just hand over any scooter. No, they wrapped Sir Robert’s new set of wheels in black, the colour of solidarity, and adorned it with the insignia of the 28th Māori Battalion. It’s like giving him a ride with a side of history. The gesture left Sir Robert with a grin so wide, it was heartwarming.
The new scooter is adorned with the insignia of the 28th Māori Battalion.
Sir Robert’s whānau has big plans for Christmas. They’re taking the scooter to the Marae, weaving through memories and reconnecting with loved ones. It’s a ride down memory lane, literally and figuratively.
The Mobility Centre team, a small but dedicated team, poured their hearts into this experience. Bev, one of the team members, says this is something she’ll remember forever, underlining the uniqueness of Sir Robert and the sheer joy of being part of this special moment in his extraordinary life.
Sir Robert Nairn Gillies, a living testament to resilience and humility, continues to inspire everyone around him. With his new set of wheels, Sir Robert can now navigate the world with the grace and dignity befitting a man who’s given so much to our community and our country.