Statue Commissioned to remember the selfless courage of Sergeant Talaiyasi Labalaba BEM MID, RUR, Royal Irish Rangers and 22 SAS and The Battle of Mirbat.
Image: Kensington Palace/Twitter
On the morning of July 19, 1972, Sgt Talaisasi Labalaba made a choice which would epitomise the courage and bravery to which all in regimental service aspire. Part of a nine-strong SAS team based near the Port of Mirbat – their mission: To protect the Sultan of Oman from insurgents. However, on the last day of a 5-month tour they were suddenly attacked by 250 elite soldiers from the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Arabian Gulf (PFLOAG).
In the face of overwhelming odds and under heavy fire, Sgt Labalaba, 30, knew that without heavier fire power, his comrades faced almost certain annihilation. He sprinted across an exposed 800-yard stretch to reach a 25-pound field gun, which would usually require four men to operate. He managed to fire a round a minute, despite a bullet wound to the face. Laba’s close friend and fellow Fijian Sekonaia ‘Tak’ Takavesi DCM, Captain Mike Kealy and fellow trooper Tommy Tobin braved a hailstorm of bullets to come to his aid but sadly arrived too late, Tobin also falling to a bullet to the neck. In total, Labalaba held off the advancing troops for six gruelling hours, fighting on despite his wounds. In the book SAS: Operation Storm, fellow trooper Roger Cole’s wrote that the fight would surely have been lost had Labalaba not taken the 25-pounder. Sgt Labalaba continues to be an enduring legend among Fijians, 1,250 of whom are currently serving in the British Army.
Laba’s courage that day was recognised by his peers and news of his conduct spread. He quickly became the epitome of the standards of courage and commitment to which all SAS soldiers aspire. He is remembered with his own statue in Hereford, and in other ways in Regimental history. It has long been Tak’s vision that Laba and what he did are remembered in similar fashion in Fiji, his own homeland, for his outstanding conduct as a soldier. And, for his selfless service to our country.
On instruction from the Fiji Prime Minister, The FijianHigh Commissionerand UK High Commissioner have worked to finalise the erection of a lasting memorial with a statue of Sgt Labalaba in his homeland of Fiji, in time for the visit of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, PrinceHarry himself recently unveiling the Statue on 25thOctober 2018. Laba’s comrade Takavesi, now 75 attended the unveiling and said: “We have campaigned for a long time for a statue to commemorate him. It is wonderful to have a memorial to him here in Fiji. “It is very important to the Fijian people. We were very proud to serve the Crown so it means a lot to us to have Prince Harry here to unveil it.
His brother Prince William unveiled a statue on Hereford in 2014.”
Level Peaks have been proud to contribute towards the £70,000 target needed to complete the project, which has been endorsed by both the SAS Regimental Association and Royal Irish Regiment/RUR Association.