Matthew Martin

Matthew Martin is the Rotorua Daily Post deputy chief reporter

Air force vets to return to battle base in Pacific

It will be an Anzac Day to remember for three Rotorua war veterans as they return to where they fought the Japanese war machine during World War II.

Leading Aircraftsman Bill Groves, Flight Sergeant Reg Wellington and Aircraftsman 1st Class Dave Daniel were just boys when they went to war - all aged between 18 and 19 - and are now in their late 80s.

They will visit the South Pacific islands of New Caledonia which were the headquarters for the South Pacific Command during the war and a training base for New Zealand soldiers.

They served in places which saw some of the bloodiest and brutal battles of the war such as Guadalcanal and Bougainville.

The trio were invited by Veterans' Affairs New Zealand to make the trip. The men will be there to represent New Zealand as part of the 70th anniversary of War in the Pacific.

For Mr Groves it will be the first time in more than 60 years he has been back.

"I can remember the things that happened, but not what I did yesterday," he said.

Mr Wellington was pleased the Government would be footing the bill. "I've got friends in the cemetery there," he said.

The men leave Auckland on Tuesday in an Air Force 757 and return on Sunday, April 28. They will be part of approximately 120 Kiwi veterans there for Anzac Day commemorations at the Bourail NZ War Cemetery.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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