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Nicholas Gruen writes about MICHAEL JAMES MANAIA's historic origins

Captain Broughton: The old men remember

The Dunera News is a photocopied magazine of news and reminiscences of the Dunera boys who were shipped to Australia in World War Two (and who included my father). The latest edition contains a reproduction of an Age story that I missed at the time about Captain Broughton his picture is above, being held by Dunera Boy Mike Sondheim.

He was a remarkable fellow by all accounts. As I reported in an earlier post Cyril Pearl describes him thus:

He was a half-caste tattooed Maori. At the age of 16, by falsifying his age, he . . . served in the South African war. Fourteen years later he fought with the Maori Battalion on Gallipoli, was mentioned in dispatches, and commissioned. After the evacuation of Gallipoli, he served in France, and with a Russian regiment. Having overstated his age for the Boer War, he understated it by 16 years to fight in World War Two.

This is what one Dunera boy said about him on his death in 1955:

Keenly intelligent, well-read, endowed with a superb sense of humour, completely untainted by any racial prejudice… deeply interested in human beings, he did not only gain immediate respect and obedience, but also the love and affection of the unit. He enjoyed hugely being at its head, learned and meticulously respected Jewish customs, and was immensely proud of the unit because of the splendid work it did, humbly unaware of the fact that it was only he who could have turned these people into willing manual labourers. … He engaged in incessant publicity war on our behalf and fought hard to have our status changed, only to be booted out by the Army eventually. After being shoved around as flotsam and jetsam for many years he managed… to make us feel like human beings again. He restored our faith in man, as something more than 92 per cent water and a few chemicals. He was a scholar and a gentleman.

Anyway, as the old men remember, so should we.

Nicholas Gruen

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