Leonard Manning memorial, Rangiriri

Rangiriri Lawn Cemetery Lenny Manning Corner

On 24 July 2000 New Zealand soldier Private Leonard William Manning was shot dead by pro-Indonesian militia while serving with United Nations peacekeeping forces in East Timor. Aged 24, he was New Zealand’s first combat fatality since the Vietnam War.

A memorial was erected to Private Manning in the Tilomar cemetery. However, his body was brought back to New Zealand, and on 29 July 2000 he was buried with full military honours in the Rangiriri lawn cemetery, near his childhood home in Waeranga. His plain granite headstone reads: “East Timor/ A997234 Pte / Leonard W. Manning / R.N.Z.I.R. / Died 24.7.2000 / Aged 24 years / Killed in action.”

The Rangiriri lawn cemetery is in Te Wheoro Road, not far from the Rangiriri Redoubt, the site of a pitched battle during the Waikato War. The nearby Rangiriri Hotel houses a ‘Lenny Manning corner’. The cabinet displaying photographs, mementoes and memorabilia relating to Private Manning was originally set up by Neil and Beth Davidson in the bar of the Globetrotters’ Lodge, Darwin. In 2002 the Davidsons donated the collection to the Manning family. The NZ Defence Force undertook delivery to the Rangiriri Hotel. There is also a Manning memorial tablet in the Te Kauwhata RSA hall.

Private Manning was awarded the New Zealand Operational Service Medal (NZOSM) posthumously in 2003. The East Timor School Trust awards a Leonard Manning Memorial scholarship annually.

 

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Rob Wesley-Smith

Posted: 28 Apr 2019

With the extension of the Pvte Manning fund to assist young people, and news on etan today his sister is to visit East Timor next week, I thought this background might be interesting - some of which has been on etan a long time ago, but I'm unsure if his family has seen.

'Finding Pvte Manning'
by Rob Wesley-Smith
April 2005

On New Year's Eve this year I read the report about a brave colleague of Pvte Manning who tried to rescue him or at least his weapon. I had become interested in this matter as some Australian Brahman cattle were supplied in October/November 2003 by NZ supporters of East Timor in part as a memorial to Pvte Manning. I was the 'stockman' who trained them and travelled with the cattle to Suai, and they were delivered to the mountain areas surrounding where Pvt Manning was killed. In the process I learned a fascinating story about the retrieval of Pvte Manning's body.

When the cattle arrived in Suai by barge, they were unloaded onto a beach at Suai Loro, then remarkably and safely herded on foot by local cattle men, (leaving me far behind), 2-3 of km along the beach and nearby track into a yard, to be held to satisfy quarantine. There was pressure to organise their transport to the 3 subdistricts in the mountains north of Suai: Fohorem, Fatumean and Fatululic. Looking around for cheap trucking options, and having seen military trucks at the barge landing, led to the local Military HQ, and eventually meeting with the personable chief 'Major Sam', a Fijian SAS commander. He was very supportive and as we chatted became interested in the fact that the cattle gift was in some sense a thankyou and memorial for the support of Pvte Manning and colleagues in late 1999 and 2000. He told the story of the Fijian troops who found and rescued his body.

Finding Pvte Manning:

A new group of Fijian soldiers had just arrived in Suai, in their tropical kit, and were having a small service on arrival as they are devout protestant Christians. News of the ambush of the NZ patrol came through at this exact moment, and their commanding officer 'volunteered' a section to go by helicopter to the place in the mountains. The soldiers pointed out they didn't have suitable clothing for the mountains, but were hurried onto the helicopters. On arrival at the place they fought the TNI/militia group off up the slope and over the ridge. They returned down the slope to camp, their clothes drenched with sweat, and they huddled together for warmth, worried about the cold with their wet summer clothing, and prayed and prayed (to be warm!).

A figure was dimly seen walking nearby. The section commander called out but there was no reply, so he walked over to find him but he had disappeared. In looking around his foot contacted a bag, which he checked out and found that it belonged to Pvte Manning. Then he discovered Pvte Manning himself lying right there, dead. Inside the bag was the warm kit of each of the members of his patrol that was nearby praying. Further understanding of this miracle is up to you I think.

Now to April 2005

I have just been to Suai subdistricts to check on what is left of the Brahman cows project. I travelled with veterinary surgeon Acacio do Amaral, brother in law of Chefe of Fatumean.

On the way back to Suai we stopped at the spot close to where the NZ soldiers had engaged in a firefight with Militia 24th July 2000. We walked up through the area guided by the Chefe of Fatumean Jose Morais, and a local Manuel Leto. It is a sacred forest area, lulic ailaran, beautiful, stunning, maybe nice if more areas can be declared sacred. We passed a sacred lake, debu lulic, took pic, took pic of giant tree (hoping the pause would let me get my breath back so able to keep up), climbed up and across through damp rocky forest, until we reached some low stone walls almost indistinguishable from the ground, and on the flat patch a modest concrete block with simple wooden cross had been erected. A plaque stated:
"In memory of A997234 Pvte Leonard Manning RNZIR 6 Platoon, B Company, 2/1 RNZIR, Killed in action 24/7/00"

This poignant memorial had been built by locals incl our Chefe. Took pics with Chefe and then all, tried to look up hill with pic, but vegetation dense. Rain fell briefly but no one wanted to turn back. We went up the hill as did the relief Fijian forces that afternoon, and reached a stone redoubt, a natural rock with gaps for a perfect ambush site, and that is what it was used for. Took a pic there but impossible to show clearly. It is almost surprising that only one of the NZ patrol was killed given the ambush advantages. At the top was a stone pile as a table - pic with all sitting on it.

Apparently the NZ patrol had set out in the afternoon of 23rd July 2000, and camped at the waterhole, which is actually not far from the road, which was swarming with forces according to the Chefe who went past on his m'bike. They climbed the hill next morning when Manning was shot dead and later mutilated. Anyone trying to check him or rescue his gun would have been subjected to fire at close range. The Fijians were helicoptered in to near where we walked according to Manuel, and fought up the slope. They walked back down to where we found the memorial and found the body - at night in the dark the going would have been tough and dangers apparent. The people were hardly surprised by my story relayed by Major Sam about the figure, or spirit (lulic) figure, that brought them their warm clothes - of course the lulic spirit of the place would have looked after them. That was said to be in a small clearing but that was not so evident to me 5 years later.

Rob Wesley-Smith Pic available of Timor site
rwesley@ozemail.com.au
61 8 89832113

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