Tuesday 6 September 2005
We can be very proud of our people who served in W.W.2 from the outset. Prior to 1935, we were classed as Asiatic as we hailed from Asia Minor. That meant that we did not receive pensions until the advent of the first Labour Government in 1935. Despite that, our young men felt a sense of duty to the war effort. For example, my mother had eight brothers and three sons and six brothers and two sons went to war. Once, when six of the men meet in Cairo they had a group photograph taken. The Egyptian photographer boasted to his assistant about how he was going to 'slug' these soldiers and charge them plenty. Needless to say they abused him in his native tongue. When the photographs arrived back in New Zealand, Hannah Mansour had one published in a magazine called the 'Free Lance'. In that era, it was very favourable publicity.
Eddie Ferris was a very brave soldier, and fearless. At the battle of Al Alamein he brought in a whole ine of Italian prisoners single-handed. My brother Bert said that they were nearly naked as he confiscated everything he could to sell on the black market. Hence, his lifelong nickname, Burglar. He was nominated for a medal but blotted his copybook. One trick that he did pull off was to take an Army truck, full of clothing, up to his father's village, Husroun. He gave it all away to his relatives and they wanted to make him Mayor of the village. Always reckless, he stayed absent without leave just short of being classified a deserter. In the wartime they shot deserters!
Of all the Lebanese men who served, only one got killed, a lovely chap named Idour. He was in hospital at the time with an injury and the hospital got bombed. They put his photograph in the O.D.T.
It was no coincidence that the Troubleseeye all lived in South Dunedin. Our crowd were not friendly because they came from Tripoli and were viewed as aliens!
While in Lebanon during the war, my brother, Bert went to Becharre to see his old school mates. One of Smurrid's brothers made a big fuss of him, firing his gun in the air as is their custom.
When the men returned after the war, the family parties lasted for weeks. I well remember the home made arrak made out of horse shit and tram tickets but who cared. There was not much money around and most had made their way up from nothing to extreme poverty. Now today, if your T.V. is bigger than mine, God help you!
Of the Lebanese men who went overseas in wartime, two saw a lot of action - Joey Michael and Bertie Reid. Lizzie Mansour's home in wartime Wellington was a meeting place for all. As Wilfred Dennis worked at the Old Royal Oak Hotel, they were in a good position to meet lots of American Servicemen. Those of Lebanese descent were taken home to Lizzie's for a feed of soul food. That's where Jamelie Farry met her future husband, Jim Unis and the three Hannah girls met their future partners also.
Joey La Hood , Sammy's younger brother, left Dunedin around 1936-7 and began training as a Christian Brother at Stratfield, New South Wales. However, he left the brothers and joined the Australian Army and served in New Guinea and Japan. He went to Korea as a Sergeant in 1950. When he got back to New Zealand, he joined the Army here and rumour has it that he asked them during his interview, 'What wars have you got?' Nevertheless, his main contribution was on the peace front as a respected Sergeant training young cadets for many years.