Ngarimu VC investiture: Governor General presents the VC

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The Ngarimu Victoria Cross Investiture Meeting and Reception to His Excellency the Governor General, 6 October 1943.  Governor General Cyril Newall addresses the gathering at the investiture ceremony.  He reads the citation for the award and presents the VC to Hamuera Ngarimu.

On 4 June 1943 news was broadcast world-wide that 2/Lt Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu had been awarded the Victoria Cross for his role in the attack on Point 209 at Tebaga Gap, Tunisia. It was the sixth VC to be awarded to a New Zealander in the war, and the first to a Maori soldier.

The public investiture ceremony where the Governor-General presented the award to Mr & Mrs Hamuera Ngarimu was held at Whakarua Park in Ruatoria, Ngarimu’s home town. At the time it was one of the largest and most fully documented Māori gatherings ever held.[1]  Despite the rain and mud, 7000 people attended the event, including the Prime Minister and other parliamentarians, Battalion members on furlough, Home Guardsmen and 1300 schoolchildren, who came from all parts of the country. Three hundred performers had been brought together from the Gisborne district alone. Te Whānau-ā-Apanui and Ngāti Porou, led by Sir Apirana Ngata hosted the event that featured five hours of entertainment.  Members of the National Film Unit, the official Government photographer - John Pascoe, and the press documented the event. Cameramen from the US Marine Corps also headed to Ruatoria to record the event.  Read more about the event here.

There were two booklets printed for the occassion:
1) Souvenir of the Ngarimu Victoria Cross Investiture Meeting (NSP)
2) Supplement to the Souvenir Programme (SSP)
 

Transcript

My Lord Bishop, Mr Prime Minister, and all Maori assembled people. I am very proud to be here to present, on behalf of His Majesty, before this mighty gathering, to Mr Hamuera Ngarimu the Victoria Cross awarded by the King to his son 2/Lt Moana-nui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu and to invest other members of the Maori Battalion with certain orders and decorations which His Majesty has awarded them for their courage and devotion.

It is fitting that we should at this moment consider the debt which we all owe to the Maori Battalion. By their deeds of valour they have won for themselves a place in the history of war for centuries to come they will be remembered with gratitude and praise by free men and women throughout the world. Maori tradition is full of stories of the courage of your forefathers. Your own sons and brothers have shown that they have inherited that courage to the full. They have, moreover, given incontestable proof of the unity of the British Empire. When one considers that little over one hundred years ago, one hundred years after the British came to New Zealand the Maori people have sent from the opposite ends of the world the flower of their youth to fight for their King and country, one then realises how living a thing is Maori loyalty and how real is the friendship of the Maori with the Pakeha.

Some of them will never return to their native land. It fell to their lot to pay the greatest sacrifice of all. They have joined their warrior ancestors in Hawaiki. To those who mourn for them we must offer our grateful sympathy and pledge ourselves that their sacrifice shall not have been made in vain. Among these is 2/Lt Moana-nui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu to whom the King has awarded the highest decoration for valour that the British Empire knows.  In making this award the King not only honours Ngarimu himself, but through him, his Battalion and his country.

No words of mine can adequately express my admiration for his courage or my grief for the loss which his family has suffered. But these words of comfort I would offer. They are very old, they were written many, many centuries ago and they will remain true until the end of all time.

"They truly live who yield their lives fighting against the foe in the fierce battle amidst the flash of swords and the whirling of the spear.

Men of ancient race that were foremost in the fight wielding their swords who stood in the melee as some mountain top rises above the flood.

What wonder if their glory liveth when all dissemblers have passed away." [2]

And now, before I present the Victoria Cross to Mr Ngarimu, I would like just to read to you the official citation which describes this magnificent courage of his son.

Second Lieutenant Ngarimu commanded a platoon in an attack upon the vital hill feature, Point 209. He was given the task of attacking and capturing an under-feature point forward of Point 209 itself which was held in considerable strength by the enemy. He led his men with great dash and determination straight up the face of the hill, undeterred by the intense mortar and machine-gun fire, which was causing considerable casualties. Displaying courage and leadership of the highest order, he was himself first on the hill crest, personally annihilating in the process at least two enemy machine-gun posts. In the face of such a determined attack the remainder of the enemy fled, but further advance was impossible as the reverse slope was swept by machine-gun fire from Point 209 itself.

Under cover of a most intense mortar barrage the enemy counter-attacked in an attempt to regain their dug-out positions. Second Lieutenant Ngarimu ordered his men to stand up and engage the enemy man for man. They did this with such good effect that the attackers were virtually mown down, Second Lieutenant Ngarimu personally killing several. During this encounter he was twice wounded, once by fire in the shoulder from a rifle and later by shrapnel in the leg, and though urged by both his commanding officer, his company commander and the battalion commander to go out, he refused to do so, saying that he would stay a little while with his men.

Darkness found this officer and his depleted platoon lying on the rock face of the forward slope of the hill feature, with the enemy in a similar position on the reverse slope about twenty yards away. Time and again, throughout the night, the enemy launched fierce attacks in an attempt to dislodge 2nd Lieutenant Ngarimu and his men, but each counter-attack was beaten off entirely by this officer’s inspired leadership. During one of these counter-attacks the enemy, by using hand grenades, succeeded in piercing a certain part of the line. Without hesitation Second Lieutenant Ngarimu rushed to the threatened area, and those of the enemy he did not kill he drove back with stones and with his tommy-gun.

During another determined counter-attack by the enemy, part of his line broke. Yelling out orders and encouragement, he went to his dislodged men, rallied his men and led them in a fierce onslaught back into their old positions. All through the night, between attacks, he and his men were heavily harassed by machine-gun and mortar fire, but Second Lieutenant Ngarimu watched his line very carefully, cheering his men on and inspiring them by his personal conduct. Morning found him still in possession of the hill feature but only he and two unwounded other ranks remained. Reinforcements were sent to him. In the morning the enemy again counter-attacked and it was during this attack that Second Lieutenant Ngarimu met his death. He was killed whilst on his feet defiantly facing the enemy with his tommy-gun at his hip. As he fell he came to rest almost on top of those of the enemy who had fallen to his own gun just before he fell to theirs. The hill feature this officer had so gallantly defended was strewn with enemy dead and was a bold witness of the great courage and fortitude which Second Lieutenant Ngarimu had fought and died.

That is the deed for which the Victoria Cross has been awarded.  Will Mr Hamuera Ngarimu please come forward.  (Crowd applauds)

Footnotes

[1] Nga Tama Toa, p. 270

[2] Poem by Anonymous from South Indian Tamil Book Of Poems, see Robert Bridges (ed), The Spirit of Man: An Anthology, Longmans, Green & Co, 2010.

 

Reference:

Sound file from Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, ref: 40862. Any re-use of this audio is a breach of copyright.

Image
The image is a detail of DA-01832-F. See full image here.
Alexander Turnbull Library
Sir Cyril Newall presents to Mr Hamuera Ngarimu the VC awarded to 2 Lt Te Moananui-a-kiwa Ngarimu - Photograph taken by J D Pascoe Date: 6 Oct 1943.

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa must be obtained before any reuse of this image.

Submitter:
Submitted by mbadmin on Fri, 04/10/2013 - 15:42

Takupu (1)

Liam Messam went some way on the African continent to help his team win a decisive and meaningfull victory today, 70 years after a fellow New Zealand Maori did in the ultimate way at a place called Hikurangi in North Africa late in March of 1943.Today we celebrate the awarding of the Victory Cross to his father Hamuera exactly 70 years to the day and indeed look back at the significance.Thank you so much for posting this archival sound treasure..