View interactive

James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Retiree wins chance to visit grave of father lost in WWII

Pam MacDonald treasures the photos she has of herself as a baby with her father before he left to fight in the Pacific. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Pam MacDonald treasures the photos she has of herself as a baby with her father before he left to fight in the Pacific. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Among Pam MacDonald's most prized treasures is the black-and-white photograph of her late father cradling her in his arms when she was a baby.

Her father, Thomas Finlayson, left their Milford home in 1942 when she was 6 months old to fight the Japanese and she never saw him again.

Now 72 years old and retired, her only mementoes of her dad are captured in the few photos she has of him that she has guarded carefully for decades.

"I have one of him sitting by my pram, me sitting up in my pram next to him and a couple of him nursing me," said Mrs MacDonald. "They're precious to me knowing that I did have the physical contact with him at one stage."

Mr Finlayson, who as a schoolboy captained the Mt Albert Grammar 1st XV, was conscripted into the army as fighting raged in the Pacific.

At age 31, he was killed in action at Guadalcanal on October 15, 1943.

Mrs MacDonald learned early on that her father was buried in a cemetery in Bourail, New Caledonia, but other details about his life remained hard to come by.

She sought more information about her dad through relatives, including Mr Finlayson's younger brother - but he died while writing a story about him for her.

And despite wanting to visit New Caledonia to see her father's resting place, spare money was always used to visit grandchildren who lived in Australia and Malaysia.

But earlier this year, Mrs MacDonald's husband, Peter, entered a New Caledonia Tourism competition with the express purpose of getting his wife to the island.

Mrs MacDonald couldn't believe it when they won the three-day trip. They will visit the island early next month.

"When we won the trip, I was very emotional. I have always felt there's been a link missing in my life. I have dearly wanted to visit him to be close to him, that's all."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a2 at 21 Sep 2014 18:56:25 Processing Time: 658ms