Last rites given at Te Puke RSA club

By Pauline Carney

1 comment
The New Zealand flag is lowered for the final time at Te Puke RSA. Te Puke RSA members and war veterans, from right, Peter Reekie, Doug Brown and Dave Ransfield at the ceremony. Photo / Pauline Carney
The New Zealand flag is lowered for the final time at Te Puke RSA. Te Puke RSA members and war veterans, from right, Peter Reekie, Doug Brown and Dave Ransfield at the ceremony. Photo / Pauline Carney

The flag has fallen on 40 years of memories, fun and good times at Te Puke RSA, but it will fly again as the veteran's club merges with the Citizens Club and relocates down the road.

About 60 former service personnel joined elderly veterans, their families and friends in a special flag-lowering ceremony in Oxford St on Saturday.

Te Puke RSA president Colin Peake said the merger was the result of talks that had lasted on and off for about 10 years.

"The club's been fading over the years," he said.

"But we are not closing, just relocating. We'll still be going for a few years yet."

The club will be known as the Citizens RSA Te Puke Club, Mr Peake said.

Elderly veterans were seated outside the club, while a former Regimental Sergeant Major bullied the rest of us to order.

As the RSM, Rex Harris from Papamoa, was loudly telling former service staff to form ranks and that "the orders will come from the rear", one wit called out: "You must have been a general."

The turnout was one of the largest outside the clubrooms for years.

Te Puke resident Mike Lally said it reminded him of the early days, when crowds gathered to vote for the queens during fund raising for the War Memorial Hall.

He wondered if the gathering was as many as for the day the RSA opened in 1977 and if many who were there that day, were present on Saturday.

Representatives from Opotiki, Whakatane and Tauranga RSAs were among the guests.

One former Rotorua RSA member lamented the closing of that club recently, without fanfare.

He was impressed with the Te Puke flag-lowering ceremony.

Bugler Brian Geoghan, from Tauranga, played The Last Post as the flag was lowered by Te Puke's Vic Mottram (Warrant Officer, retired) and the ranks stood to attention.

Many were sad as they reflected on the good times celebrated in the club. A 21st was held there on Friday night, so the old rooms were figuring in family life right until the closure.

The Ode to the Fallen was recited - as it is every night in RSA clubs around New Zealand.

The flag was slowly lowered from the flagpole, folded and presented to Mr Peake for safekeeping until it is flown at the Citizens RSA Te Puke premises in Jellicoe St.

A minute's silence followed a former veteran sailor reciting The Achilles Ode.

The good humour continued - RSM Harris, saying a few words before dismissing the parade, was asked "Are you shouting us, sir?" His answer was lost in the laughter.

Everybody was invited into the premises where a lunch was served for guests.

Later on, bands played into the night and a buffet was served at a farewell party.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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