Battles of Manners Street & Freemantle (Perth)

The following notes have been compiled from the recollections of Private Darcy Ngarimu Nepia, 814940.

Even after sixty years there is still debate on what caused the Battle of Manners Street. What is known for sure is that it involved American and New Zealand Servicemen who frequented the United Servicemen's Club.

These notes have been compiled from the recollections of Darcy Nepia who joined the 4th Wellington Regiment, and then transferred to 28th Māori Battalion, and left New Zealand as part of the 11th Reinforcements.

3rd April 1943, Darcy at the time was serving as a member of the 4th Wellington Regiment. Darcy along with some mates was heading towards the United Servicemen's Club in Wellington. The first battle started with a Policeman on points duty outside the Club. American Servicemen came out of the Club and decided to help direct the traffic. A few of the New Zealand boys went to help the Police Officer which caused a few fists to fly. Others seeing the fracas also joined in until it involved those on the street, inside the Club, and along the streets in all directions. Law and order was eventually restored, but the bad feelings still simmered. Press censorship by the Government in New Zealand meant that little mention of the Battle and it's casualties was mentioned in the press or the news bulletins at that time.

In June of 1943 Darcy, still with the 4th Wellington Regiment, was a dispatch motorcycle rider and was sent as part of the Ngarimu VC Investiture held in Ruatoria.

In August of 1943 he transferred from the 12th Wellington Regiment to the 28th Māori Battalion.

In March of 1944 he was seconded to the 28th Māori Battalion 11th Reinforcements and embarked for Egypt on the 31st. Their ship arrived in Freemantle on the same day as an American troop ship. Because of the hostility and resentment between both groups, a decision was made that shore leave would be given on different days, however when the 28th boys got ashore they found that the American boys had been taken ashore for training purposes. In Darcy's own words "In the first pub they entered the found the Americans had already got there. One in battle outfit ran past me when I went to the toilet and in a cubicle I found one of our men had been stabbed. I helped him to the street and asked someone to call an ambulance. When I got back inside the hotel I found another of our boys had been stabbed and the yanks were against the wall whirling their web belts around their heads and slashing with knives at anyone that got in the way.

Whare Dewes was cut while trying to take a knife from an American Serviceman and Petuera Raroa (Sid) was stabbed in the shoulder. Harry Pene from Otaki had his calf muscle sliced and both Charlie Kahaki and Reg Hooper of Tolaga Bay were knifed in the ribs.

Darcy found Reg Hooper outside the hotel, bleeding, so he shouted out to some civilians who had a jeep "I want to race this man to hospital". He placed his hand over the wound to stop the bleeding, and the suction from the wound held it in place. Once at the hospital he still couldn't remove his hand, so he stayed with Reg even when they took him into surgery. The doctors tried to put a flat steel plate under his hand but this broke the vacuum effect and Reg died immediately.

While in port two detectives from the Perth Office went aboard the NZ Troop ship and asked for the names of anyone who would be able to give evidence at any criminal trial.

Four names were put forward: Nepia D N (814940): Pene H E (805178): Raroa S (820932): & Kahaki T T (817540).

The Detectives thought the ship would be in port for a few days, but they actually sailed the next day, so the four above named were recalled to Australia and were held over in Aden to be returned by any vessel available to give evidence. The first part of the return trip took them to Madagascar where they stayed until further transport was located. They had no local currency so they washed dishes etc for food while they were there.

They eventually arrived back in Perth for the Civilian Police trial, and as far as I can find out possibly a court martial as well held by the Americans. To the best of his knowledge, Darcy believes that at least four men were found guilty for the death of Reg Hooper and others, and were executed by firing squad.

It was during their time back in Freemantle that Darcy met and married his first wife.

Nepia, Pene, Raroa and Kahaki travelled back to Egypt on the same ship along with the 12th Reinforcements, and then rejoined the 11th Reinforcements.

(Some documentary evidence to back up this event is available.)

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