Heroic hilltop stand by Maori Battalion
26th March 1943: Lieutenant Ngarimu wins first VC for Maoris, fighting to the death with his men
In Tunisia Montgomery's 'Left Hook' to circumvent the Mareth Line defences had not progressed as quickly as had been hoped. On the night of 26th March, a renewed assault was made on the Tebaga Gap which would enable the mainly New Zealand force to break through to the rear of the German lines. Whilst tanks made an attack on the Gap through the mountains itself, the infantry were engaged in fierce engagements to take the tops of the surrounding peaks.
In the thick of the action were men of the Maori Battalion, native New Zealanders, with an established reputation as aggressive fighters dating back to the First World War. One man distinguished himself before all others. 2nd Lieutenant Ngarimu had risen from the ranks after coming to notice since the Battalion had first seen service in Greece two years before. His was the first VC awarded to a Maori.