This is taken from The Maori Battalion returns to Tamaki Makaurau, 30th National Reunion, March 2010.
Reg. No. 26146
Manoel Santos was born in Kokofo’ou, Tonga on 2 January 1915 to Joachim Santos who was Portuguese and Mele nee Ika Hihifo. Manoel was the second son in a family of 12 children, seven girls and five boys. He spent his interim years in Tonga and excelled in education. He worked on the family plantation in Fatai. On the 11th February 1937 he married Uini (Winnie) Payne from Nukunuku. From this marriage there were 13 children and three adopted children.
In 1940 Manoel and two other Tongans, Alex Leger and Joseph Vailima came to Aotearoa/New Zealand and enlisted in the 28 Maori Battalion. His family back in Tonga was extremely proud of Manoel’s decision. Vincent his younger brother told me that Manoel joined up to support his fellow man, he had a deep sense of what was right, he was not prepared to just sit back. He carried that mantle through life. Due to a war inflicted injury Manoel was sent home from Egypt before the war ended.
Manoel had seen a life in Aotearoa/New Zealand that would offer his family a higher standard of living, better education and more opportunities than in Tonga. So in September 1957 he packed up his family and travelled to New Zealand. He rented an old villa in Jervois Road Herne Bay. Manoel was a hard worker and maintained two jobs so that he could save for a deposit on his own home, working at Westfield’s and also at a cabinet-making factory in West Street. Manoel continued his career as a cabinet maker for McKeown’s in Ponsonby Road where he stayed until his retirement.
A huge interest throughout his life was boxing and he supported his sons, Manoel Junior and Joe as they pursued their careers both inNew Zealand and Australia. In 1984 they moved to Mt Albert where Manoel spent his last years. He passed away on 13 November 1986 and is buried in the Armed Services section at Waikumete Cemetery.
He was an astute man who was deeply loved by all his family, especially his moko. Always ready to listen to their thoughts he was never judgmental. He is remembered by the fanau as being a man of his word who was held in high esteem and respected by not only his family but also for the impact he made within the Catholic Tongan Community. St Benedict’s Church and the Catholic faith was the cornerstone of his life as were the Kava nights at East Street shared with his older brother Fred and their friends.
Granddad Santos was a man of few words it was not what he said that impressed me but how he lived and what he did to raise his large family. I remember his eyes and knew he never missed anything that was going on, his quiet spoken voice when he did speak.
His advice to me to do well at school and how important it was as it gave me choices. All the beautiful furniture that he made and how he touched the smooth finish of the wood – a cigarette in his mouth or close by. I thank you Granddad, for bringing your family to New Zealand for having the foresight to believe it would give all of us more opportunities and a beautiful country to live in.
We are now beginning to produce his great-great-grandchildren and we need to tell them about our family and how they came to New Zealand from Tonga, that Granddad was a soldier in World War II with the 28 Maori Battalion so that we could all have a chance in life. Go forward make Granddad Santos proud.
Lillian Mann [Manoel Santos’ first mokopuna]
NB: The corrrect spelling for his place of birth is Kolo foo`u