Te Moananui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu, c1940
7 April 1918|
Whareponga, New Zealand
|Died||27 March 1943†
(aged 24) |
Tebaga Gap, Tunisia
|Service/branch||New Zealand Military Forces|
|Years of service||1940 - 1943|
|Unit||28th (Māori) Battalion|
Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu VC (7 April 1918 – 27 March 1943) was a New Zealand soldier and posthumous recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
A Māori of Ngati Porou and Te Whanau-a-Apanui descent, Ngarimu was born on 7 April 1918 in Whareponga in the East Coast region. He grew up in Ruatoria where he attended Hiruharama School before going on to attend Te Aute College at Poukawa in Hawkes Bay. After completing his fourth form year, he worked as a shepherd on his father's sheep farm.
Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Ngarimu joined the New Zealand Army on 11 February 1940, volunteering for the 28th (Māori) Battalion. The battalion, which embarked in May 1940 with the 2nd Echelon of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force was destined for the Middle East to join the 1st Echelon, but instead was diverted to England in May 1940 where it formed part of the island's defence against a possible German invasion. The battalion eventually arrived in Egypt in March 1941.
Ngarimu served through the battles of Greece and Crete after which he participated with the battalion during the North African Campaign. Commissioned in April 1942, he served for a time as an intelligence officer before being given command of his own platoon.
By March 1943, the campaign in Africa had moved to Tunisia. The 2nd Division, of which the Māori battalion was part, was tasked with the capture of the Tebaga Gap, which disrupted otherwise mountainous terrain. Several hills overlooked the gap, which itself was forced relatively easy, although several hills remained in German hands. One such hill was Point 209, held by the 2nd Battalion, 433 Panzer Grenadier Regiment of the 164 Light Division. Ngarimu's company was allocated the objective of the capture of Point 209. On the afternoon of 26 March, he led his men up the slope and captured what was believed to be the top of Point 209, although it transpired to be a false summit and a feature lower on the slopes of Point 209. Fierce fighting transpired as the Germans attempted to drive Ngarimu's forces off the hill. Twice wounded, he and his men defended their position from several counter-attacks during the night. His position reinforced the following morning, he was killed during the next counter-attack.
The false summit remained in the hands of Ngarimu's company, and the Germans still on Point 209 itself surrendered the same day once artillery support had been brought to bear on Point 209. Ngarimu is buried in the British Military Cemetery at Sfax, Tunisia, and is commemorated by a scholarship promoting education of Māori.
The medal was presented to his parents by the governor general, Sir Cyril Newall, at a hui at Ruatoria on 6 October 1943 attended by government leaders, diplomatic representatives and local people. The first of only two Victoria Crosses awarded to Māori, it was displayed in Gisborne in the Tairawhiti Museum’s Price of Citizenship Gallery.
- McGibbon, 2000, p.387
- Harper & Richardson, 2007, p.262 – 268
- McGibbon, 2000, p.309
- Harper, Glyn; Richardson, Colin (2007). In the Face of the Enemy: The Complete History of the Victoria Cross and New Zealand. Auckland, New Zealand: HarperCollins Publishers (New Zealand) Limited. ISBN 1-86950-650-2.
- McGibbon (Editor), Ian (2000). The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History. Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-558376-0.
- Portrait by Peter McIntyre
- Te Moananui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu biography from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
- Entry in the Encyclopedia of New Zealand (1966)
- Full citation
- Other Heroes at www.edgenz.com
- Second Lieutenant M.N.K. Ngarimu in The Art of War exhibition at the UK National Archives
- New Zealand Troops who have won the Victoria Cross at the Wayback Machine (archived October 26, 2009) (brief biography details)
- http://www.tki.org.nz/r/maori/wharekura/whare14_st4_e.php, article in te reo
- New Zealand Army