Private Edward (Ted) Douglas, B Company, 28th (Maori) Battalion, 2nd NZEF. Born Ngongotaha 9th of September 1917. Wounded 11th December 1941: Killed in action at Takrouna 20th of April 1943.
Not an easy thing to do dig up the painful past. But I am very grateful to Ted's younger surviving siblings for the assistance given me by..91 year old sister Isobel and 84 year old brother Jim Douglas for the search and in finding their elder 28th (Maori) battalion brothers photographs.
Both Edward and Joseph were killed in action along side their B coy. mates on the same day within hours of each other during the battle to win the strategic Takrouna outpost in Tunisia 1943.
Edward as part of the 6460 all ranks of the 2NZEF, 2nd Echelon left NZ on the 2nd of May 1940 and because of Italy's entrance into the war as an Enemy and the invading of France by German were diverted to the U.K. arriving at Scotland on the 16th of June 1940. So for the next 7 or so months remained in the U.K. forming part of the two NZ defensive Brigades incase of the likelyhood of a German seaborne invasion. Their he witnessed what must have seemed absolutely incredible, the great 3 month long air war known as the "Battle of Britian"
So Edward along with his 2nd Echelon did'nt join his Kiwi Division in Egypt until February 1941 after a long voyage again around the African continent's Cape of Good Hope. So increasing the strengths of the 2NZEF,5 Brigade and his loved 28th (Maori) Battalion he quickly went on and served in the devastating Greece and Crete campaigns ultimately returning to the Kiwi Maadi camp near Cairo in June. He survived the furious battles around Point 175, Sidi Rezegh, Sollum and Behammed thus forming a corridor in the relief of Tobruk late in 1941. He like a good number went on and fought in the blazing Battles for Egypt of 1942 such as Minqar Qaim,Ruweisat Ridge and El Mrier in July and into the blistering 1st retreating Battle of Alamien. Then after a breather witnessing the 1000 gun assaulting El Alamien barrage on the 23rd of October and subsequent 5 Brigade follow through into what must have been the thrilling series of "left hook" pursuits of the German and Italian Axis forces through to the ultimate clearance of the ancient city of Tripoli late in January 1943. Later during the early days of March Edward was their in his B company during the 3rd "left hook" day long battle in Tunisia at Medenine and further on to the Southern Mareth Line to the Tebaga gap at point 209 on Maori Hill where C companies 2nd Lt. Te Moana Ngarimu won a posthumous V.C. on the 26th of March 1943.
Boy.. this guy knew action along with his Battalion brothers they all would be feeling very much part of something special.. thrilling yes dangerous yes.. but to be their sensing North African victory and seeing and participating in all this Sea Air and Land power with its highly sophisticated hardware and immense firepower with your mates.. this was to be part of something awe inspiring.. the 2nd NZEF Divison as part of the 8th Allied Army "War Machine"
On the 5th of April 1943 the Maori portion of the Eighth Reinforcement draft arrived to bolster the depleted ranks of the 28th (Maori) Battalion for the first time. One of these 56 Reinforcement arrivals was Ted's young brother.. 21 year old Private Joseph Douglas. It had been over three years since these beloved brothers Ted and Joe had seen each other.
As with many of those in war whose fate turns it happens in a blink of the eye and was sadly in the last North African Campaign battle for the 2nd NZEF Division and its 5th Infantry Brigade. The incredibly daring and courageous assault of the 180 metre high Takrouna outpost near Enfadaville in Tunisia that the bitter pill for Ted, Joseph, their whanau and in particular for his mother Mrs. Adaline (Ada) Douglas back home on their Kaharoa farm near the village of Ngongotaha in New Zealand would happen..
Zero hour for the attack was an hour before midnight on the 19th of April. What a mortar and artillery filled night of deadly booby traps, enemy weapons pit lines and hectic traced filled Northerly night approach towards Takrouna that it proved to be for the Kiwi Divisions 21st,24th,26th and 28th Battalions. With the 28th Battalion chosen to come back into the Southerly direction and assault up the rear of the top terrace known as the pinnacle and then to assault further down to the enemy filled ledge and village terraces below. B company was randomly the most succesfull in penetration although recieving heavy casualties and like most were without communications, cut off and pinned down by enemy fire. It was during the following morning of the 20th while the remnants of B Coy. were re-organised and separated into 2 surviving platoons from the original 4 with L.Sgt Manahi and Sgt. Rogers taking command of each platoon that two rounds of enemy artillery or heavy mortar fire devastingly landed. L.Sgt. Manahi's platoon was firstly struck instantly killing Pvt. Ingram, Pvt. Ratahi and Pvt. Moore with L.Sgt. Manahi surviving amazingly unscathed. Sgt. Roger's platoon was some 20 metres away when the second round hit striking Sgt. Rogers and Edward.. both killed and beside Pvt. Edward Douglas was his very recently arrived younger brother Joseph and he was badly wounded. There after Pvt. Joseph Douglas along with the other Maori wounded had been carefully placed in a building close by and the desparate seesaw fight continued. But the top terrace or pinnacle had not been thoroughly secured and an hour or so later an Italian enemy horrifically decided to throw multiple stick grenades into the makeshift medical Forward Dressing Station killing most of them including Joseph..Two brothers side by side in life were now side by side in death.
Joseph embarked on the HMT Aquitania from Wellington NZ on the 11th of December 1942 as part of the 8th NZ Reinforcements with 28th (Maori) Battalion contributing 2 Officers and Joseph being one of the 56 other ranks who disembarked at Port Tewfik, Egypt on the 5th of January 1943. He therefore was a young rookie soldier who had only joined his Te Arawa B Coy. 2 weeks previously, he had difficult things to learn and no doubt was carefully being "guided in tow" by his trusted battle hardened elder brother Edward. On the 20th of April 1943 such can happen.. The Tragedy of War.
The Maori reaction to this event was typically blood curdling and ferocious. Italians whether they wanted to surrender or not were shot bayoneted or thrown over the sheer cliff face.