Captain Frederick Tiwha Bennett commander of B Company gives an update of the activities of B Company. Along with other New Zealand and British forces they supported C Company in taking Point 152. They also supported A Company the following day at Point 154 when they had come under a counter-attack.
Tiwha was the third son of the first Bishop of Aotearoa. His brother Charles Moihi Te Arawaka Bennett also served with the Māori Battalion and he later became its Commanding Officer. Read more about Tiwha Bennett.
This recording is part nine of a fuller broadcast made by the Māori Battalion about the Libyan campaign.
You have heard that Major Rangi Royal was wounded at Gazala together with his only remaining officer Mr Don Stewart. It was here that I was commanded to take over B Company. It was a big responsibility to undertake and we fully realised this when we went forward and began to organise what was remaining of the Arawas. The men were fit and eager to get into it again even though they had been fighting strenuously for some time. We had been allowed two subalterns by the CO to take over two of the three platoons, all of which had been without officers. One of the officers allowed me was Mr [Waipaina] Awarau of the Ngāti Porou and the other Mr [Ted] Pohio of Hawkes Bay. There was also the company Sergeant Major, Martin McRae, who through the whole campaign has proved himself a tireless and energetic warrior devoted to his men and devoted to his duties. For platoon sergeants there was Sergeant Les Hall, Sergeant Tommy Lawrence and Acting Sergeant Jack Tapiri. And so, there was an air of confidence that afternoon on the 17th of December when it was planned that Ngāti Porou C Company were to take a certain Point 152 and the Arawa B Company would support their attack on the left flank. Thus we went into action. Two great Māori tribes, fighting together, each with its own myths and fighting traditions behind it. For support we had New Zealand Vickers machine gunners in our ranks and in the rear New Zealand artillery and Royal Force Atillery. Tanks were there if required and also the planes of the RAF. But they were never called upon and before nightfall point 152 was no longer in enemy hands.
That night we slept in enemy trenches and looking at the perfect construction the next morning and gazing at the mass of weapons, which the enemy had had at their disposal, we observed that had our boys been in the enemy positions nothing short of floods and famine would have shifted them from their seemingly impregnable position. Our casualties return for that day was nil. We looked forward to a nice long spell after that. But during the morning orders came that the Arawas were to move forward and support the left flank and the Ngapuhi A Company who were being threatened at Point 154 with a counter attack by a considerable enemy force. The boys responded unhesitatingly. Tired, dirty, hungry and war weary their response was magnificent when they were told the Ngapuhi were in danger. And ten minutes later we were moving towards them. At eleven o'clock we came under heavy fire but we moved forward and finally took our position on the right flank of the Ngapuhi. And that is where we stayed all day until dark. One wonders now, how any of us managed to get out alive as we were shelled by their big guns, their mortars and their machine guns all day long. But we hung on and as after events proved our support of the Ngapuhi was not in vein. We suffered casualties and so did A Company. But our reward came the next morning when we awoke and found the enemy had fled. And that was the start of a retreat that took him right back beyond Derna and Benghazi and which is still continuing.
And so another great chapter is written. And all of you at home who are grieving over the deaths of your sons, and your husbands and your sweethearts take heart from the knowledge that their sacrifice is not in vein. The fight we are fighting is for freedom against servitude, right against might, good against evil. And it is only through your sacrifices that the things we love and cherish can ever survive. People in Ōhinemutu, Whakarewarewa, Maketū, Ōpotiki, Whakatane, Tauranga, Te Puke, all Arawas you have lost sons who died fighting fiercely for everything that is good and clean in life.
Sound file from Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, ref: 15331. Any re-use of this audio is a breach of copyright.