Family of Tongan officer who fell in Solomons hopes his remains will come home one day

The family of Henelē Taliai, a Tongan officer killed in the Solomon islands during the Second World War hope that one day his remains will be sent back to Tonga.

Lt Henelē Taliai

But they feel the government has forgotten him.

“Today my Dad remembers his older brother Lt Henele Taliai, who was killed in action in the Solomon Islands,” his nephew ‘Ikani Taliai  wrote on Anzac Day.

“The Army Camp in Tonga, Taliai Camp, was named after him by Her Majesty Queen Salote.

“He was killed alongside New Zealand Lieutenant Ben Masefield and the song “Taio” was written in remembrance of the two of them by Siotame Mataele, a soldier and friend to them both.”

‘Ikani said Masefield’s remains had  been repatriated to New Zealand, but his uncle’s remains were still in the Solomon Islands.

“One day we will get him back home.”

In 2018 the then Prime Minister, ‘Akilisi Pōhiva revealed that Lt Taliai’s younger brother, the Rev. Siupeli Taliai, had written to Lord Ma’afu, the then Minister responsible for His Majesty’s Armed Forces, asking the Tongan Government to repatriate the soldier’s remains.

Hon. Pōhiva said at the time the government would discuss the request as a matter of urgency.

Henelē served with the First Commando Fiji Guerrillas in the Solomon Islands during the campaign to drive the Japanese out of South Georgia.

Lieutenant Taliai was killed by machine gun fire on July 12, 1943 when a commando patrol, edging along the beach towards Munda, ran into a heavy concentration of Japanese troops.

In her thesis on the Tongan military forces, historian Amanda Lee said he was regarded as a loved and admired young officer by the troops he commanded.

The commando patrols, made up of Tongans, Samoans and Fijians, were known to the Americans as the South Pacific Scouts. They made a key contribution to the Allied advancement during the campaign, serving as scouts and flanks for the American troops.

The commandos had a reputation for bravery and an adept understanding of the Pacific environment they were fighting in.

As a young man he was a keen rugby player and represented Tonga in test matches against Fiji.

His father and grandfather were both Methodist ministers. He was an outstanding athlete at  Tupou College, where he captained the cricket and rugby teams and was senior prefect.

The official British history of the Islands campaign, Among Those Present, said he was confident the Tongans would give a good account of themselves if ever they got into action.

“We were famous warriors in the old days and were feared all over the South Pacific,” he was quoted as saying.

“We’re a bit out of practice, but we think we can pick it up again.”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here