Tamaio Paiki - the battle leading up to entering Tobruk


Signalman Tamaio Paiki talks about entering Tobruk after the seige.  He served with the Signals Division.  In this recording he recounts his observations of the battle leading up to it. 

Tamaio lived in Christchurch where he was a reporter on the Star-Sun newspaper.  He also taught children in England as a lecturer on an Imperial Institute panel that worked under the Ministry of Education to spread information about the Commonwealth. [1]  He died in 1984 and is buried at Temuka Cemetery.


Ki te iwi, ki nga hapu, ki nga marae, i Aotearoa, i te Waipounamu, tena koutou.  Ki aku hakui, i Korerehu a Hariata.  Ki aku tuahine - Pirihira, Amiria, ki taku kaumatua a Wiremu Mihaka.  Ki aku tamariki - Winston, Jill and Gaynor, Barry, Bill me Tuhuru.  Tenei te aroha, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou. 

Naturally, I am proud to be the first full-blood representative of my race to arrive in the fortress of Tobruk.  My unit was the first, or rather among the first to pass along the narrow east to west corridor from the desert into Tobruk which our air force, armoured units and artillery had smashed open through the strongly held enemy lines.  We arrived in the early hours of the morning after a gruelling all night movements through the shell rid area.  Incidentally we made this journey after being shelled continuously for two days and after repelling vicious, futile attacks by a large German force.  Looking back over the three or four weeks when our division was in action, one’s mind simply sieves with the vivid memories of swift desert journeys.  Our mechanised columns attacking relentlessly at many widely separated points.  Every day, every night was full of incident and for me to discuss in detail the events of any particular day would take much more time than this broadcast permits.  My most vivid recollection of our time out in the blue, is the tank battle which raged for two days when we were just north of Sidi Rezegh and which was in clear view about 7000 yards to the south and east.  Enemy artillery together with mobile infantry stood in readiness to support their tanks.  Our reconnaissance patrols reported that they were a numerically stronger force at this point than we were and that it was evident that they would attempt to crash through to re-join their other forces to the west.  Through powerful binoculars I saw our light and heavy armoured units move forward just below the edge of an escarpment over which the Hun tanks must come.  All day long on the first day the enemy tanks tried to come over but time and again they were driven back.  The enemy renewed his attempts on the following morning only to meet the same determined resistance.  The fight took a sudden change when a squadron of about twenty fighter planes from the RAF, god bless ‘em, started to straff his infantry.  How we cheered when we saw the Jerries running in all directions trying to evade the hail of bullets and bombs from the air.  Nor were their troubles ended here, our artillery suddenly opened fire and even in that first salvo several of their lorries burst into flames.  It was a dramatic site and I was among those who climbed on top of a lorry and had a real grandstand view of it all.  Before coming into the desert I like many others in the division wondered in what circumstances I would see or meet my first Hun.  Of course I imagined he and I would be pelting lead and steel at each other but such was not the case.  There were thirty one in the first group of Germans I saw.  They passed through the lines of my unit, early one morning, having given themselves up as prisoners during the night.  From a close inspection of them, my impression was that they had been fully fed and their clothes were of very indifferent quality.  They were the first of several hundred prisoners I saw that day.  From my own observations here in the Middle East, I really as one of the ranks would like the Prime Minister and the people of New Zealand to know three things: one – we will always earnestly strive to maintain the traditionally high name that New Zealanders have as a fighting force and so hasten the day of victory.  Two – thanks to the sacrifices and the work of the people home there in our Dominion, we here are foremost among the best equipped soldiers in the world and three – the officers who direct the operations of the New Zealand division and particularly the officers of my own unit are men whose courage, ability and leadership have won the unstinted admiration of the men in the ranks. 

E te iwi, ka mutu i konei, tenei a Te Maio Paiki.  Hei konei ra, hei konei ra, hei konei ra.


[1] Te Ao Hou, No 16 (October 1956), p.13


Sound file from Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, ref: 14007. Any re-use of this audio is a breach of copyright.

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