The recommendation for the DSO was initiated by the CO of 22 Regiment SAS on the 16th August 1972 by Lt-Col P.E. de la C, de la Billiere.s leo.
MIRBAT is a medium sized and important fishing town lying some 25 miles east of SALALAH. It is wired in and has a small military garrison of local gendarmerie and ASKARS; the latter being the equivalent to home guard. The defence of the town is the responsibility of the SAS contingent and full responsibility for its control lies with the SAS commander.
There has been no major attack on the town of MIRBAT since operations commenced in DHOFAR some two years ago until the night of the 19th of July. On this night the communist insurgents decided to mount, against MIRBAT, the largest most determined and best planned attack that they have launched in the whole campaign. From captured enemy personnel it has since become clear that they were confident of their success and that had they captured the town they intended to occupy it permanently and establish a seat of communist government in DHOFAR. The political implications of such a dramatic turn of events need no further expansion.
At 0530 hours on the morning of the 19th July mortars started to rain in on the MIRBAT Garrison. The Garrison was stood to and under Captain KEALY’s direction commenced the battle for the town. For over 4 hours the communists pressed home their attack; they infiltrated the town; they destroyed the stone defences with RCL, Rocket Launcher and Mortar fire; they concentrated a major effort against the SAS personnel in the town; they closed to grenade range and fought with a ferocity, tenacity and blind dedication that is the mark of all Communist shock troops. They launched this attack with an estimated 250 men against a small garrison town whose defence was designed to repel attacks from no more than a dozen men acting without determination. It was only after four hours of continual and ferocious fighting that they finally admitted defeat and withdrew leaving behind some 40 wounded and filled. A subsequent radio intercept indicates that they suffered at least 86 casualties and subsequent intelligent reports indicate that this figure may be as high as 100 or more.
On the morning of the 19th of July the enemy opened a highly effective and concentrated fire from mortar and RCL pieces onto the town of MIRBAT. Tpr TAKAVESI, together with Cpl LABALABA, had the responsibility of manning the 25 Pdr. It should be pointed out that neither of these soldiers had any pervious artillery training other than a 2-day course on the mechanics of handling this particular gun.. Under heavy and accurate mortar fire TAKAVESIA, together with LABALABA, covered the 500 yards from the main SAS position to the Dhofar Gendarmerie fort, where the 25 Pdr was sited. Quickly and effectively they brought it into action.
It soon became clear that the enemy considered the 25 pdr to be a key objective in the initial stages of the attack and they demonstrated this by concentrating an effective and accurate fire at the crew with all their available weapons. Subsequent debriefing of captured enemy personnel confirmed this impression and made it clear that the enemy intended to capture the gun, man it wit their trained crews and turn it on the town. They had not bargained with TAKAVESI and LABALABA.
The battle continued to rage around the 25pdr position while TAKAVESI, quite undaunted, continued with his task of firing the weapon over open sights and at point blank range. Inevitably he was wounded, the bullet entering his right shoulder and passing through both lungs and finally lodging in the left shoulder, while a second bullet gave him a nasty wound in the head. He continued to assist as far as his wounds permitted him. Eventually when they had been dressed he wedged himself between the gun and some sandbags in a half lying, half sitting position from which he could cover a vital enemy approach around the corner of the fort some 30 metres from the position. For over two hours he prevented the enemy from rushing the position by firing his SLR at anyone foolish enough to come within his sights.
Eventually Cpl LABALABA was killed and the only able bodied British soldier remaining in the position was Captain KEALY – TOBIN, the medical orderly having been severely wounded and rendered unconscious. Thus TAKAVESI’s continued resistance was essential for the maintenance of the position and it was only by his determined, continuous and resolute defence on his particular flank that the position was not lost. For over two hours he prevented th enemy from rushing the position by the effective use of his SLR and thus supported his Troop Officer to his right. TAKAVESI displayed, throughout this period, the greatest calmness and bravery, for not only was he severely wounded, but was under intensive enemy fire including grenade attacks. His gallant action prevented the enemy from capturing the gun position and this in turn denied them the prize of MIRBAT itself.
In the end he refused to be casevaced until all the other wounded had been taken out by helicopter. When he finally staggered to the aircraft he refused any form of support from other people. The seriousness of his injuries may be judged by the fact that he remained on the VSI list for some two weeks after the incident.