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Goff: Recognition of Gallantry of Haane Mahani

Recognition of Gallantry of Haane Mahani Speech to Manahi Hui, Tamatekapua Marae, Rotorua

Goff Speech:

When the question of the award for gallantry to Lance Sergeant Haane Manahi was referred to me shortly after becoming Minister of Defence, I went back to what I thought would be the most reliable source of information on his actions.

That was the original citation sent to London with respect to what he did at Takrouna Ridge in North Africa in 1943.

There was from that document signed by the full chain of command including Generals Kippenberger, Freyberg, Alexander, Wilson and Montgomery, no doubt in my mind that at Takrouna Haane Manahi proved his courage and determination time and again in a way which clearly merited the award of the Victoria Cross.

The Manahi family, the Te Arawa people and all of New Zealand can take inspiration and pride from his conduct and his behaviour.

That the awarding of a V.C. was denied, on the intervention of some anonymous person in London, is to all of us inexplicable.

Haane Manahi, in a way common to many men who have performed great and courageous deeds on the battlefield, was I am told always modest about his achievements and uncomplaining about the awarding of the Distinguished Conduct Medal given to him in place of the V.C.

But others including Sir Charles Bennett former commander of the 28th Maori Battalion, took up the case after his death to see if retrospectively his achievements could be honoured with the late awarding of a V.C.

I pay tribute to the efforts of the Manahi VC committee, Te Arawa and Haane's family who all took up the cause on his behalf. People worked tirelessly because they believed in what he had done and wanted the due recognition his actions deserved.

I think we all understand the reasons given why the Palace felt it could not reopen any case involving the awarding of medals for conduct, which occurred during the Second World War.

But on reading about what Haane and his fellow soldiers did, I wanted to be sure that nothing had been left undone that might have been able to put right the decision to downgrade the recommendation that he should be awarded the V.C.

I travelled to Rotorua to meet with the Manahi VC Committee, the RSA, the Manahi family and representatives of Te Arawa.

We decided to put together a case one further time for the Palace to reconsider but this time to do it collectively – to speak with one voice and to provide to the Palace the most comprehensive and compelling argument for why we were again asking for the recognition Haane deserved.

There are too many people to thank for their efforts but if I could thank everyone by simply mentioning the two people who accompanied me to Buckingham Palace on behalf of you all - Donna Hall a Te Arawa lawyer, acting for the Manahi VC Committee and Norm Bennett a founding member of the Manahi VC Committee.

I don't think any of us could have done more to make the case.

The Queen's representative, her private secretary Sir Robin Janvrin, listened to our submission attentively and courteously.

I know from Her discussions with former Governor-General, Dame Silvia Cartwright that The Queen herself took a personal interest in our submissions and considered them at length.

None of us have any complaint about the manner and the seriousness with which our case was treated.

Nevertheless, it was with real disappointment that I received and conveyed Sir Robin Jarvrin's response that a V.C. could not now be granted to the Manahi VC Committee, family and Te Arawa in Rotorua in July.

Sir Robin said that Her Majesty had asked him first to reiterate Her great admiration for Lance Sergeant Manahi's remarkable bravery. The reports of witnesses and commanders at the time her said were evidence that a recommendation for the award of the Victoria Cross was by no means unjustified and that Lance Sergeant Manahi was clearly deserving of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, a significant decoration in its own right.

However, he said that Her Majesty places great store by King George VI's decision shortly after the Second World War that no further awards for service during the war should be considered.

He reiterated that it has been The Queen's longstanding wish to support her father's reasoning, which was reached a few years after the cessation of hostilities, namely that even after a relatively short passage of time it was generally deemed to be no longer possible to make the careful assessment required to entertain claims for further awards.

Notwithstanding the merit of the case to reconsider the award made to Lance Sergeant Manahi, which had been supported by an exceptionally well-detailed and powerful submission, it remained the case that Her Majesty, out of respect for the late King's decision on awards for service in the Second World War, has never made an exception to it.

The Queen, however asked Sir Robin to convey Her personal wish that careful thought be given to alternative ways in which further due recognition could be given to Lance Sergeant Manahi's gallantry and the broader aspects of the actions of Lance Sergeant Manahi as a representative of Te Arawa. The Queen also expressed her wish that any resulting initiative should follow from close consultation with Te Arawa and the Manahi VC Committee and that she might personally be associated with it.

That consultation has taken place, and the Government worked with Te Arawa, the Manahi VC Committee and the Palace on how we could best, honour Haane Manahi for his gallantry.

The form of that recognition, as agreed between all parties, has been inspired by the famous refrain 'for God!, for King! and for Country!' from the marching song of the 28th (Maori) Battalion.

"For God will be marked by the presentation through the Palace of an altar cloth destined for St Faith's Church, adjacent to the burial place of Haane Manahi and many of his fellow soldiers.

'For King' will take the form of a letter from The Queen, acknowledging the gallantry of Haane Manahi, to be framed and hung in the Tamatekapua Meeting House alongside photographs of Haane Manahi and The Queen.

'For Country' will be represented by a sword to be gifted on permanent loan to Te Arawa by the Queen.

Te Arawa will in turn present the sword to the Chief of Defence Force along with a patu in memory of Haane Manahi.

The sword will be displayed in the office of the Chief of Defence Force. The patu will be worn, on appropriate occasions as part of the dress of the Chief of Defence Force. These gifts will be a tangible link between Haane Manahi, The Queen, Te Arawa and all serving members of the Defence Force.

The timing and ceremonies for the presentation of these items is still to be finalised but I am delighted that agreement has been reached on a suitable way that the bravery and memory of Haane Manahi can be permanently and conspicuously honoured.

Once again, I thank all of those who have contributed to this outcome and I pay tribute to Haane Manahi and to all our service men and women who served their country so bravely and to the many who never returned.

no reira ki nga pumanawa e waru o Te Arawa he mihi atu ki a koutou no reira e ngā rau rangatira e huihui mai nei tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa (So therefore To the eight beating hearts of Te Arawa Therefore distinguished leaders gathered here today my heartfelt greetings Greetings thrice)

ENDS

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