ALISTAIR TE ARIKI CAMPBELL
The Brigadier’s Secret Weapon
‘Sir, beg to report that a private soldier
has been in the condition that reflects badly
on the dignity of the Maori Battalion.
He was alone, some distance in front
of his group, and when seen he was wearing
an expensive fur coat and a Borsolino hat.
His rifle was carelessly slung over
his shoulder, sir, and he’d chucked his pack
into a pram along with other things he had
nicked along the way. As he wheeled the pram along
he was heard singing the German National Anthem.’
‘I see, Staff Captain — and what conclusion
have you reached?’ ‘He was full as a boot, sir.’
‘Precisely, Staff Captain. Now look here,
the man is a prototype of a new secret
weapon that we propose to let loose on the enemy.
Imagine, if you will, a thousand doughty Maori
warriors in this cunning guise, wheeling
prams loaded with high explosives, and possibly
a small man — if the size of the pram permits —
into the enemy camp. The enemy won’t know
what struck them, and the war will soon be over.
It’s a variation of the wooden horse device.
I expect a gong for this. What do you say
about our little secret, Staff Captain? Speak up
man — don’t be shy. You must be as excited as
I am.’ ‘I think he was full as a boot, sir.’
Alistair Te Ariki Campbell was born in Rarotonga, half-Polynesian, and spent most of his working life in New Zealand as an editor of educational publications. Many collections of poems and a number of novels and plays to his name. Numerous awards and honours, including: The Pacific Islands Artist Award, 1999; Hon LittD (Victoria University), 1999; ONZM (Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit), 2005; The Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry, 2005. Also in 2005, publication by Hazard Press of a major collection, The Dark Lord of Savaiki: Collected Poems. His latest collection, Just Poetry, is in the pipeline. He lives in Pukerua Bay with his wife Meg, who is also a poet.
Campbell comments: ‘ “The Brigadier’s Secret Weapon” is based on an actual incident during the Italian campaign, involving the Maori Battalion. I’ve had a bit of fun with it, adding the nonsense of the secret weapon and making a joke of it. The bare facts you will find in my Maori Battalion sequence, “L1X Brigadier J T Burrow’s Vision”.’