Hero of Takrouna - Manahi

This article appeared in the April 1992 NZ 28 Maori Battalion Reunion booklet. 

Hero of Takrouna: Manahi

Since the end of World War II there have been many pleas for the award of the Victoria Cross to L/Sgt Manahi. These pleas have been persistent. As recently as at the Opening of 28 NZ (Maori) Battalion Exhibition at the Army Museum, Waiouru the late Sir James Henare pleaded the cause - to no avail.

As Commanding Officer of the Battalion in the battle until seriously wounded in action, Sir Charles Bennett has said that he has always felt a continuing sense of moral obligation to attempt to correct what was generally regarded as a grave injustice. This was the feeling not only of Manahi's own comrades but of members of 5th Brigade who took part in the Takrouna Battle.

The intensity of this feeling can be gauged from the fact that for the rest of his life, Manahi was regarded with the highest respect amounting almost to awe, just as though he was indeed the holder of the Victoria Cross. His life came tragically to an end in March 1986 in a motor accident. He was a quiet, self-effacing man, conscious, it appeared to those who knew him well, of the special niche he had carved for himself by his incomparable deeds at Takrouna.

A career soldier E.M. Dix (British & NZ Army) has assembled substantial and telling evidence upon which it could be claimed that there is a case to be answered in the non-award of the V.C.

Dix maintains that there should be:

1. The reinstatement of the original recommendation for the V.C

2. The cancellation of the D.C.M.

3. V.C to be awarded in place of the D.C.M.

The case rests mainly on the following:

a. It was intended that the V.C be awarded to Manahi

b. The recommendations went through the levels of command: Maori Battalion, 5th NZ Brigade (Brigadier Kippenberger) NZ Division and 10 corps (Lieut-Gen Sir Brian Horrocks)

The next level 8th Army (General Montgomery) appears to be the one at which the recommendation was lost sight of (It was recorded in Kippenberger's "Infantry Brigadier that the recommendation passed the Corps Commander with ardent endorsement").

Sir Dennis Blundell, Brigade Major of 3 NZ Brigade at Takrouna, for our Reunion Magazine 1984 had this to say, "I wrote the citation for V.C. for Sgt. Manahi and like the rest of the Division was disgusted when he was awarded an Immediate D.C.M. I feel sure that here was an example that even in the realm of bravery, politics played a part and that the award to 2nd Lieutenant Ngarimu only some three weeks previously influenced the final decision. This for me was confirmed when later at the Gazira Sporting Club, Cairo, our Military Secretary, Brigadier Rudd, asked me to tell the story to a Senior British General. The General's comment was that "We did make a mistake."

General Horrocks in his book "A Full Life" said this of Manahi:

"I have mentioned this fight in some detail because in my opinion it was the most gallant feat of arms I witnessed in the course of the War and I was bitterly disappointed when Sgt. Manahi, whom we had recommended for a V.C., only received a D.C.M.

It was interesting to note that in 1941 two V.C.'s went to one battalion in a short period, Sergeant Hinton of 20 Battalion won the V.C. in Greece and Captain Upham in Crete.

When Manahi was asked if he had any warrior ancestors he replied that he didn't have a clue, Mr Kepa Ehau, who was something of an expert on Rotorua Family histories provided an answer:

"In Jack Manahi's family," he said" you will find sources for his normal quietness and gentleness and for his once-in-a life time terrible fury. His father's father was Te Rauawa "The Peacemaker", a saintly man remembered for his quelling of tribal strife. But another ancestor on the father's side was Tunohopu, a warrior chief of Ngati Whakaue sub tribe of the Arawa, and a man to be feared.

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