LAUNCH: Sir Wira Gardiner and Waitangi Black during the Ake Ake Kia Kaha E! Forever Brave! launch at Te Manuka Tutahi Marae on Saturday. Photo Mandy Hague D8365-01

MORE than 200 copies of Ake Ake Kia Kaha E! Forever Brave! were sold at the book’s Whakatane launch on Saturday.

Written by Sir Wira Gardiner, it is a testament to the 28 Maori Battalion B Company.

It covers chapters from before the war to the Italian Campaign, Cassino and onwards to Florence. It also includes a map of key battles and soldiers of the company.

Launch organiser Tani Wharewera said more than 200 people attended the informal event, offering a good atmosphere.

PRESENT: Judy Tihi, one of five widows of soldiers presented with her own copy of a testament to her husband Moai Tihi and hundreds of other brave men. Photo supplied

The day begun with a powhiri before moving on to guest speakers including Minister of Defence Ron Mark, deputy mayor Judy Turner and B Company 28 Maori Battalion Book Trust John Bluett.

Author and historian Doctor Monty Soutar also took the stage and lastly, Sir Wira spoke to the crowd.

Mr Wharewera said the speakers talked about their contribution to the production of the book, their connection to the 28 Maori Battalion or for those who could, about their experience as servicemen.

An important part of the launch was presenting copies of the book to widows of 28 Maori Battalion soldiers. Five widows and one granddaughter of soldiers were given books.

Mr Wharewera said whanau of soldiers attended as well as veterans and current servicemen and women.

During the ceremony, there was plenty of laughter and recollections of happy moments, including acknowledgement of whanau who attended, who had a connection to parts of the book.