Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Secret wars and unknown heroes

I heard on the 0630 news that a soldier, killed in 1972, has now been afforded the great honour of having his statue placed in his old Regimental HQ. Talaiasi Labalaba was a mighty Fijian warrior serving this country in the Special Air Service Regiment. He was killed in action at what is now known as the Battle of Mirbat and received a posthumous Mention in Dispatches (MID) which, if you read the full story of his action, is unbelievable and to this day rankles those who know the story. Below is a quote from one of his comrades who fought with him that day and who, eight years later, would take part in the storming of the Iranian Embassy in London to end the six day seige: He was a bear of a man. Just to see him walk down the street was enough for most people, but when he was fully tooled-up he was the original Rambo. He would never surrender. He just didn't know the word `surrender`. He would give his life for his comrades. Same with Sek (Takavesi). They wanted to give Laba the VC for his actions at Mirbat but because the war was a secret in 1972 they said a VC awarded to a Fijian would be headlines in every newspaper in the UK. So to keep the war a secret, all they gave him was MID. You can get that for walking up the Falls Road. The guy deserved a VC for what he did. Fijians continue to serve in the British Army.

17 comments:

Sage said...

I hadn't heard of the battle of mirbat, or even of any british involvement in Oman... I think they ought to revisit the details and give him the VC he richly deserves...

Blue Eyes said...

Nor had I! The idea of a secret war is so completely against the idea of "democracy" that I am appalled.

Give him the VC.

Hogday said...

Sage and Blue: A close friend and former firearms team buddy of mine was part of the British Army Training Team (BATT) sent to Oman in 1972. It was very much a classic `hearts and minds` task supporting the local population against the communist . This battle is a truly stunning read. I was privileged to have been on a course at the Army Staff College, Camberley with a relative of the Sultan. The reverence in which their family hold these SAS men is humbling. Laba and Sek are legends in Fiji. Sek, now in his 60's and a veteren of the Iranian Embassy seige, was injured in Basra a few years ago working as a private security contractor for the FCO. He lives in Britain.

Henry North London said...

The British have their fingers in many pies...

Never assume anything...

Diego Garcia is a big thorny issue

Hearing the story yes, give him the VC he deserves it.

I'm glad youve brought the story up or I would never have heard of it either

wv ratto (interesting)

Hogday said...

HNL: Thanks for the visit today. Who ate all the pies?

Dave Pie-n-Mash said...

I have read a number of stories about the Battle of Mirbat. Al of their actions during that battle were phenomenal, but Laba's was even more so. He raced across open land to a machine gun post that he held on his own for hours and kept the rebels at bay, to the benefit of his fellow soldiers. He finally got shot but never gave up shooting at the enemy and kept them at bay. His fellow soldiers could not make it across to his machine gun post due to heavy fire. Sadly, there was a troop of Omani soldiers in the building next to Laba's machine gun post. They never came out of their hut to help fight. One man did come out, to surrender, but got shot dead. They left it to the SAS.
Laba, all of them, deserve more than medals.
Through a chance meeting, I met a man once who had just retired from the SAS, he was a friend of a friend. It was odd to observe him. I truly believe these boys never switch off and relax. He was cordial but on guard all the time and surveying the area. It makes me proud to know that they instil fear in the hearts of terrorists. Like the Balcomb Street seige, mention you are sending in the SAS and they all surrender. Im glad they're on our side.

Hogday said...

Nice one DaveP&M. Its about keeping the stories alive so these people live on in the hearts and minds. Thanks for the comment.

Henry North London said...

if you make them you have to eat them

Its a hard job you know

powdergirl said...

I have some Figian friends, here to play rugby, if they go to war like they go to the pitch, I have no trouble at all understanding how they're able to instill fear in the hearts of terrorists.

They are formidable, and holy crap can those guys eat!

Sad that Laba's heroism went unrecognized for so long, and its fascinating to hear about it.

Hogday said...

Hi PG. The Oman `emergency` is fascinating and is, even today, little known outside of a rather small circle, despite stories like Mirbat now told in books. Laba's story and that of his comrades is, quite literally, stunning.

My nephew, out in Afghan` had several Fijian's in his passing out parade. All in the Welsh Guards. One was a tribal chief and his buddies would gather round him if they thought he was going to get into trouble. This made the job of the training sergeants an interesting challenge in tact and diplomacy!

Blue Eyes said...

How is your nephew getting on? Is he back in Afghanistan yet?

Hogday said...

Hi Blue and thanks for asking. He stayed, as has his hearing damage, but he was lucky and he was back on duty within 48 hrs. The body of his L/Cpl (James Hill) was flown home last week. Others in his platoon who were seriously hurt were medivac'd back to the UK asap and are now in Selley Oak - but we won't read about that. Anyway, as the very old saying used to go: today's news is tomorrows `fish and chips wrapping` ;)

Blue Eyes said...

He has larger cojones than most, then. Send him my regards and I will email you a beer token for him when he returns!

Hogday said...

Thanks Blue. BTW, had a call this afternoon. One of his mates who I'd mentioned earlier (medivac`d out to Selley Oak) passed away the other day. Bugger.

Blue Eyes said...

Oh shit.

anthony said...

Before his return to the SAS Laba was my Pln Sgt with the Irish Rangers in Gibraltar.Not only was he the finest soldier i ever served with but was also a true gentleman. Tony T

Hogday said...

My respects to you Tony. I've been privileged to a similar service insight, in respect of Sek, via a couple of friends of mine (no names here but one was first through the blown window at Princes Gate). If its true about the statue at Stirling Lines then that's a big step towards a long awaited tribute. Thanks for looking in.
PS: Did you ever meet "Black Mac"? (Rangers, at Tidworth, 1980-82).