Personal info

  • Name: Errol John EMMANUEL
  • D.O.B: 13th Dec, 1918
  • D.O.A: 1st Jul, 1969
  • D.O.D: 19th Aug, 1971
  • Award: George Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: District Commissioner, East New Britain District Territory of Papua New Guinea
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 3
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The end of the Second World War left the world divided into two competing blocks, one free and led by America, the other Communist and led by Russia. In Europe this division was embodied by the Iron Curtain. In Asia after the Communists came to power in China in 1949, there sprang up what came to be known as the Bamboo Curtain. The period, until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the end of Communism in Russia followed by the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, is characterized as the Cold War. In the West there was no armed conflict, the two superpowers, both with large nuclear arsenals, being constrained by the Balance of Terror. However, outside Europe, the post-war period saw the dismantling of the colonial empires and the emergence of the Third World. Here, particularly where nationalist movements were dominated by local Communist parties, there was often prolonged fighting. Both in Korea, formerly governed by the Japanese, and in Vietnam, previously a French colony, rival Communist and non-Communist states’ governments fought against one another. The Western and Communist powers viewed these administrations as their clients and international rivalries were played out in what were essentially civil wars. Though it had an active role in the Korean War, Britain was relatively fortunate in its own experience of decolonization. As far as this volume is concerned it is only necessary to note that in the late 1940s and 1950s it successfully combatted a Communist insurgency in Malaya and that in the 1960s it assisted its former colonies in Malaya and Borneo to resist the threat of Indonesian expansion. In the Falklands War of 1982 it defended the inhabitants of this South Atlantic territory from annexation by Argentina. It also itself experienced a period of internal terrorism occasioned by the Troubles in Northern Ireland, which began in the 1960s but could be traced back to the 1920s and earlier. Meanwhile, Australia had deployed advisors and troops in South Vietnam between 1962 and 1973. However, instability in the Middle East, where the secular nationalism of the post-war period has been overshadowed by Islamic extremism, now appears the major threat to world peace. The terrorist attacks on America perpetrated by Al-Qaeda on 11 September 2001 have led directly to Western intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the former country, Australia, Canada and New Zealand have also contributed troops to the military operation.


 Errol John Emanuel was posted to Rabaul, East New Britain, in July 1969, on special duties with the object of bringing mutual understanding and peace to deeply hostile indigenous groups, and restoring in the Gazelle Peninsula a system of local gorvernment. He was appointed District Commissioner for the East New Britain District in March 1971, continuing to give priority to the special task which he had undertaken since July 1969. Over a period of two years, Mr. Emanuel was engaged in the dangerous and difficult role of influencing more than 70,000 Tolai people to discuss their problems in a peaceful and tolerant atmosphere. To this end he visited villages constantly at night, in the early morning, and almost always alone, to talk to leaders of all factions in order to gain their confidence and trust. He continued to make these visits undeterred by specific threats against his life. On a number of occasions involving public confrontations and imminent violence between police parties and large groups of people, Mr. Emanuel deliberately left the cover of police protection and, without regard for his own safety, moved among dissidents in order to pacify them. Each time he was personally responsible for averting bloodshed and loss of life on both sides. He knew that he was risking his life every time he went alone into crowds such as these but he never wavered from his task, choosing to expose himself to danger rather than risk the lives of his fellow officers and the police. On 19 August 1971, at a plantation on the Gazelle Peninsula, Mr. Emanuel again undertook the role of peaceful negotiator during a confrontation with a group of hostile people. Despite recent threats to his life and the fact that some of the Tolai people were in war paint, he left the protection of the police at the invitation of one of the group of dissidents, and went alone down a bush track to negotiate quietly and personally in an endeavour to quell the disturbance and prevent bloodshed. He was then mortally struck down. Mr. Emanuel’s continued acts of the most conspicuous courage over a long period of time in circumstances of extreme danger, and in complete disregard of threats against his life, were in the highest traditions of bravery and sacrifice carried out beyond the call of duty. 

(The London Gazette of 1 February 1972, Numb. 45588, p. 1281)

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