World War II vet Manhertz still serving old soldiers

Senior staff reporter

Sunday, November 10, 2019

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GERALD George Manhertz, one of the few living World War II veterans of the Jamaica Defence Force, is still living a life of service.

Manhertz, 94, told the Jamaica Observer that as a boy growing up his interest to serve his country in the period of war came after seeing a newspaper advertisement of a member of the Royal Air Force that said “your country needs you”.

“Growing up you heard of the atrocities between Germany and the Japanese. There were lots of ups and downs. In the Caribbean there was upset in that the way we used to live had to change. The few who had a car had to park it and ride a bicycle. The cost of food also went up and things got scarce. Things got rough. I remember seeing an advertisement from England. A photograph of a member of the Royal Air Force saying your country needs you, come and help your country in the war. Travel, get experience, learn a trade and that motivated a lot of youths like myself,” Manhertz said.

Subsequently, in 1944 at 19 years old, Manhertz made the decision to join the Royal Air Force through what was known then as the Jamaica Infantry Volunteers, which eventually became the Jamaica Battalion, then the Jamaica Regiment.

“I began training at Transit Camp Palisadoes to move out. Those times we had English, Welsh, Irish, Scottish and Canadian instructors. Whilst there and training batches were leaving and had to travel in convoys and ships were being sunken by the Germans in all waters. While undergoing training an atomic bomb was dropped by the Americans on Hiroshima. Shortly after, another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki and my preparations were halted. So I didn't go (Britain) until 1946 to help restore normalcy,” he shared.

When Manhertz got back he resumed civil life at the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation before joining the now disbanded Special Constabulary Force in 1965, where he served until he retired in 1987 as a commander.

For his service in World War II, Manhertz was awarded the King George VI medal and in 1975 he received the Medal of Honour for efficient service in the civil area and in 1986 received the Medal of Honour for meritorious service.

In 1992, he joined the Jamaica Legion and has served as branch chairman and member of the Island Council of the Jamaica Legion. He is also a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force Benevolent Society, Jamaica Pensioners Association and an active member in his church.

But, he prides himself most in being able to serve his country and assist with raising funds through the Poppy Appeal for ex-soldiers and veterans at the Curphey Home in Mandeville.

The poppy appeal is part of the Jamaica Legion's efforts to raise funds for World War veterans and individuals, who served in the Jamaica Battalion and ex-military individuals. Several ex-service individuals are now unable to physically and financially support themselves. Funds collected from these activities aid in the provision of welfare assistance such as food, clothes, medical care inclusive of prescription drugs. The poppy period normally lasts from October 4 to Remembrance Day, which is observed today. However, donations to the Curphey Home can be made by calling the Jamaica Legion's office at 926-2381 or 968-0673.

For Manhertz, knowing he is able to provide help of any sort is fulfilling.

“My greatest accomplishment is knowing when someone needs help of any sort — financially if I can afford it, physically or mentally. That's when I am proud,' he said.

Also a saxophonist, Manhertz holds fast to always putting service above self.

He said: “Help the old if you are young, help the weak if you are strong, own a fault if you are wrong and keep a guard upon your tongue. Once you are able to you must serve others before yourself and then you will be rewarded.”

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