An ANZAC – In Memory of a Man of Peace
An ANZAC – A Man of Peace
published on Spectator.co.nz…
By Selwyn Manning.
ANZAC Day –
April 25 always brings to mind one man more than any other.
Why? I don’t know, perhaps it was his honesty, his
This man lived in Papakura, a town about
30 kilometres south of Auckland City, New Zealand. He had
witnessed the worst and the best of human endeavour. He
called himself Chino. His simple life's story made an
impact, he shared his wisdom and he passed hope for us all
as we approached this new century, he left a legacy of hope.
April 25 1998 was a special day for Papakura's Chino
Every year since 1945 Chino joined
his mates outside the Returned Services Association
buildings. There they would shuffle into lines two files
wide and an arm-reach space between each man. Within the
ranks there once were old-man soldiers who had braved the
Turkish machine guns at Gallipoli on April 25 1914.
Each year they were fewer in number, five, then,
three, then one, and now, well they have all passed away.
This year Chino looked at all his World War II mates
with tears in his eyes. There was little different about
this march, except that Chino noted fewer of his friends
there to make the grim pilgrimage to the Papakura Cenotaph.
There was one difference this year though. Chino decided to
talk to a southern Auckland journalist about his war
experiences, he wished to be honest, to tell his own tale of
what his life has meant to himself.
He began his
memoirs with tears. And it was a fitting start he said
because that is what war did to him.
"I spent most of
my time on my knees, in tears, frightened and praying for my
life to be spared," Chino told me as we sat inside the
lounge of his humble unit.
Chino said the weight he
felt at the death of his brothers during the war had never
left him. Never had he forgotten how his friends were killed
in the Western deserts of Africa during the battles of El
Alamein, against Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's Panzer forces.
From the cool pre-dawn mist, Papakura's returned
soldiers turn from Wood St into Great South Road. Others
wait quietly at the curb, we watch on as a stirring from the
Palm Trees begins to flutter. First is heard a chucky-clunk
noise as the soldier's medals tap tap tap against each man's
chest. Then comes a click of boots on road, resounding like
hammers upon leather, as 200 men relive memories most care
to leave untold.
There is Chino. He marches with one
leg moving forward a little slower than the other. But he
and all the men still march in time. Chino's face, like all
the other men's, is taught. Concentration centres on keeping
in file, on pride, on survival, on those to whom they have
promised to remember: "Lest We Forget".
This year the
line of men is once again thinner. And again a tear breaks
its shackles to trickle down Chino's smile-line.
birds in the Palm Trees awake to herald the approaching
dawn. Their chorus is the light-side of this solemn ritual.
The men form at "attention", then "at ease". The service
honours the sacrifice each man, alive and dead, has made in
their attempts to create a free-world.
And of course
then, at the end, a bugler plays The Last Post. All who
gather now remember friends, brothers, mates, fathers,
uncles, lovers - the men who did not return home from war.
And then the rays of a new day burst across the sky. All
present say: "Lest We Forget."
Chino sits surrounded
we are with photos of his family, many in uniform. A black
blazer decorated with a long line of service medals pinned
to its chest is folded over an armchair.
Chino, on the floor, is a grey woollen blanket. He has kept
it with him since 1943 when it kept him warm on cool north
African nights. That blanket is as good as new, neatly
folded. The man shows it off with pride.
he was never a brave man. Not even wen he fought in the
Maori Battalion in Egypt to halt the German advance.
"I spent more time on my knees than fighting. And I'm
here today because I could run fast. I prayed then and I
still pray today."
The aging man's hands tremble. He
glances at them, always aware of his approaching frailties.
Back during World War II Chino was just a boy. He
signed up for the Maori Battalion at just 15 years of age.
His older brothers had already gone to war. Army recruiters
were convinced the boy was "of age" after Chino showed them
his father's dole book. That book did not list a birthdate.
But recruiters knew you had to be 21 years-of-age to get the
dole, so Chino was in.
That dole book was his ticket
for a journey that would consume the rest of his life.
Chino's war began in North Africa in 1941.
"I was a boy on a mission," he said. "I had back-dated my
age. My parents didn't know I'd joined the Army until it was
time to leave. My mother cried and they asked me to stay.
But they did not stop me from going."
Chino was with
the 7th reinforcements, know as Maori Battalion 28. Egypt
was his first base for about nine months. He did not see any
fighting then. After this he was moved off to Palestine for
six months. Then to Syria. There, Chino remembers: "We used
to make our bed out of sacks. Lie it on the ground on the
stones in the desert. We had ten men per tent. We would have
to take a shower once each week, we had to walk five miles
to take a shower.
"I first saw action in 1943. We
were trucked from Syria, through Palestine, past the Sea of
Galilee to Egypt."
Chino and his battalion knew Rommel
was waiting for them: "We were not too happy about that. But
our job was to stop Rommel. But then he was a great
The 7th reinforcements had only just
arrived at their Egypt base when Rommel's tanks surrounded
News of an impending
ambush swept through the gathering: "I had just arrived when
a man said 'go and have a feed Chino'. Then from out of
nowhere came this screaming sound!"
It was a German
Stuka bomber sweeping down on the Maori Battalion: "The
screaming of the Stuka was a killer. As the screaming got
louder we would dive for the stones. If you had a helmet on
you were okay.
"But the fear was there. I wondered
then as I do now, 'How did we get through it?'.
Stuka swept down and dropped a bomb. I wondered what the
bloody hell had happened."
The earth shuddered. Dirt
flew in all directions. The explosion left ears ringing.
"After that, after the attack was over, the man told
me again to go and have a feed. But I wouldn't."
Chino had lost his appetite. First he dug a trench
for protection in case more Stukas loomed in for the attack.
With the night came confirmation that they were
indeed surrounded by Rommel: "We were told the attack would
come with dawn."
The Maori Battalion got together.
They decided to strike Rommel's soldiers first. They got
their weapons ready. Worked out their plan. Chino and his
fellow soldiers stalked up to the German lines.
did the Maori Haka [a Maori war dance]. Ka mate! Ka Mate!"
The Battalion all chanted in unison. The sound was
electrifying, Chino said. It carried on the desert night
air. Chino felt the pride of his homeland. The boy became
"Ka Mate, Ka Mate!. We were all doing the war
cry. It gave us courage and it scared the Germans. They
didn't like it. And we fought to survive."
the Maori Battalion broke through he Panzer lines. They cut
an opening for all the Battalion's trucks and guns. They
were surrounded no more.
Young Chino saw a lot more
action. In World War II the Maori Battalion sustained
extremely high casualties, and at a rate disproportionate to
The effects of the slaughter were soon
felt by the families back home in New Zealand. Generations
of future Maori leaders were wiped out.
But of all
his war experience the hardest thing for Chino was visiting
his mates in hospital, seeing the wounded: "That always
brings tears to my eyes," he said.
World War II
eventually came to its conclusion. Chino returned to New
Zealand in August 1945. He then entered J-Force, the men
whose task it was to help Japan get back on its feet.
Chino's war didn't end. "After the war I couldn't settle."
He went on to serve four years as a Warrant Officer Class
Two with the 163rd Battery in the Korean War, mainly at a
place called Kap Yong.
"We were often in the thick of
it, but it was the cold that was our worst enemy," Chino
said. While at Kap Yong, Chino heard that his brother, also
fighting the Chinese and North Korea, had "got
"I visited a clearing station and I heard
someone moaning. I thought 'I know that voice'. It was my
Raymond was paralysed, had a
shrapnel wound to his spine. He was eventually shipped back
to New Zealand. Had his leg amputated. Married. Had
children, and died of cancer "some years ago".
said: "As I get older all of my friends are dying off. Many
were killed during the wars. All those buddies were lost
over there," he gestures with his hand. "Please remember I
was no hero. I was not brave. I was scared. I ran often. I
did more praying. Still do it.
"I lost two brothers
in El Alamein and another wounded in Korea.
Day is sad," Chino's hands shake as eyes relive memories of
pain. "I don't want young people today to go to a war and
see what we went through. That is my wish."
April 25 1998 was a special day for Chino Mulligan. It was
Mulligan died from cancer several months after this
interview. He is survived by his wife, daughters, sons, and
His life is a poignant reminder of the
most destructive century in the history of this world. His
wish for a lasting peace was an impassioned cry, for all who
remain, to approach the advent of this new century with a
desire for conciliation at home and abroad.
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