Veteran Ralph Tako, whose first language is Maori, recalls the break-out at Minqar Qaim and reminsces about comrades on a C Company veterans’ pilgrimage to Italy in 1999. There were over 150 participants in the group, including 18 veterans, travelling on three buses. Ralph is talking to Monty Soutar. His first language is Maori.
Ralph Tako: ...well like ah... too many battles you can’t say which.
Monty Soutar: Oh ae, ae
Ralph Tako: Only the breakthrough, I remember the breakthrough
Monty Soutar: Minqar Quaim?
Ralph Tako: Well, it was C Company that broke the line. Yeah. And we lost one of the officers [referring to Capt. Jim Tuhiwai]. Tutu Wirepa was our officer but before that battle goes, we never carried a spade, or pick or anything, a gas mask … the line has to be broken [referring to the breakout at Minqar Qaim] but the sappers had to get [i.e. lay] the mine first and then we always attack about one o’clock.
Monty Soutar: In the morning?
Ralph Tako: Yeah, always the morning. *And all the, see we were [on] the move then see … they showed us [when] we broke the line Pakeha comes to be stretcher bearers. Maoris would prepared [i.e. ordered] again to join. Aww, you gotta go on the book, well if a man had the timings well you can tell the places he’s been eh [meaning it would help him if he had the offical history of the Maori Battalion to refer to so as to remind himself of the dates and order of battles].
Some Maoris can compose songs, just like that song “Dusty wheels across the desert”. That fulla that composed the song is cousin to Tutu Wirepa … he was a Henderson
Monty Soutar: Henderson? From Te Araroa?
Ralph Tako: Yeah.
Monty Soutar: You know which one?
Ralph Tako: Rangi
Monty Soutar: Oh he got killed eh?
Ralph Tako: He got killed [at Point 209 in Tunisia], well composing, because you just don’t know where you’re going next time. How can you, because once the brigade is put in the line they got to go forward or go backwards. And that's the 6th Brigade, but always the 5th Brigade, because the best fighters were the 23rd and the 28. That’s the Pakeha’s from the South Island.
*Denotes editorial break in footage
Nga Taonga a Nga Tama Toa Trust