Talaiasi Labalaba

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Memorial to Sergeant Labalaba at the Royal Artillery Museum, London

Talaiasi Labalaba BEM (13 July 1942 – 19 July 1972) was a British-Fijian sergeant in the SAS who was involved in the Battle of Mirbat on 19 July 1972.[1] Labalaba initially served in the British Army in the Royal Ulster Rifles.[1][2]

Battle of Mirbat[edit]

On 19 July 1972 the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Arabian Gulf (PFLOAG) attacked the British Army Training Team (BATT) house, which housed the nine SAS soldiers, based just outside the port of Mirbat, Oman. Labalaba, aged 30, was shot dead whilst firing a 25-pounder gun at the attacking guerrilla forces. He displayed notable bravery by continuing to fire the 25 pounder single handed in spite of being seriously wounded when a bullet hit him on the jaw, after his Omani loader was seriously wounded early in the battle. Captain Mike Kealy and fellow troopers Tommy Tobin and Sekonaia Takavesi ran a gauntlet of enemy fire but arrived too late to save Labalaba. Both the troopers were also hit, Takavesi was wounded in the back and Tobin was killed when a round crept through the sand-bagged walls and hit him in the face. Labalaba's actions helped to keep the insurgents pinned down until Strikemaster jets of the SOAF arrived to drive back the attackers while reinforcements from Salalah could be organised. Fellow SAS trooper Roger Cole in his book of the battle, SAS: Operation Storm, paid tribute to Labalaba saying if the guerrilla force had taken the 25-pounder then the SAS would have surely lost the battle.

Labalaba was awarded a posthumous Mention in Dispatches for his actions in the Battle of Mirbat, although some of his former comrades have campaigned for him to be awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. His body was returned to England and buried in the cemetery at St Martin's Church, Hereford.[1]

In 2012 he was chosen as one of BBC Radio 4's 60 New Elizabethans in celebration of Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Personal Details: Labalaba, Talaiasi". Armed Forces Memorial roll of honour. GOV.UK. Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  2. ^ He is listed under that regiment and not under SAS in his entry on the Armed Forces Memorial Roll of Honour. His government-issued headstone bears the RIR regimental crest, with the SAS 'winged dagger' a subsidiary depiction.
  3. ^ "The New Elizabethans: Talaiasi Labalaba". BBC. Retrieved 31 July 2012.