ALAN BINES says he never got to serve in the military during conflict, though he enlisted as soon as he could.
"I joined in 1946 after the war was over. I joined the Navy at the age of 15."
Alan left the Navy in 1952, and signed up for the Army. "I was a devil for punishment," he says.
From an office in the old Rotorua RSA building, he tells 48 Hours, "It was a good opportunity to learn the hard way, and we sure did."
The former Navy officer steward says trainees were punished severely for infractions like smoking or not wearing their uniform properly.
"They had a punishment that was called jankers and...they used to frog hop us up and down the hill with a rifle above our heads. It was mighty cruel."
Still, Alan says he wouldn't trade his military experience or the discipline he learned.
Today, the 85-year-old shares his knowledge with young people. "
I had the museum here as curator. For the last 26 years, it was great to have children come in and have classes and teach them about the war, how grizzly it was."
Sadly, he says one casualty of modern life has been the RSA building itself, sold last year due to financial difficulties. Members use the office on Haupapa Street for administration and plan to shift to the racecourse soon.
Rotorua RSA president William McDonald says the club, which also marks its 100th anniversary this year, is experiencing a renaissance. He points to the recent Poppy Day, when volunteers sold red poppy badges to raise funds to support veterans, ex-service people and their families in need.
"We've had magnificent support . . . I don't know how much was collected, but we had schoolkids, people from the cadet force, community members . . . all around the community, it was quite an inspiring reaction, given we're a little down after the last
year. It certainly indicates the support we need to continue as an effective RSA."
One of the group's missions is educating younger community members.
John Paul College students Anatares Wilson Ball and Sophie O'Neill are involved with RSA through their work with the New Zealand Cadet Forces (NZCF), an organisation for boys and girls aged 13 to 18.
Each year sees the return of uniformed young people like cadets, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides marching at parades, serving as sentries and presenting wreaths. Seventeen-year old Anatares, a Year 13 student at John Paul College, is an air cadet. He'll act as sentry during the Civic Theatre service.
"I'm very proud that I can stand there in my uniform and help and be able to show my respect."
Army cadet Sophie O'Neill, a Year 10 student at John Paul College, is 14 years old. She says her great grandfather fought in Gallipoli, and she's proud to continue a family tradition of service.
"I'm interested in joining the army and want to become a medic."
Philippa Jenkins helps cadets fundraise for overseas expeditions, such as next year's trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. She says it's heartening to see youth take part in Anzac Day.
"They're very aware of the sacrifices that were made and willing to help do anything. They're very respectful of older people; they like to sit and talk to them . . . and they can't imagine themselves at that age doing what they did."
William McDonald says this time of heightened awareness of military sacrifice provides a chance to highlight veterans' struggles.
"You'd be surprised at the number of recent ex-service people who come home from conflicts and are so divorced from society that they're homeless. It indicates again how we've forgotten that."
William says RSAs play a role in connecting all veterans and their dependents with needed services.
"That's a significant part of our RSA's future."
#MyAnzacDay photo competition
- Enter the #MyAnzacDay photo competition and show how New Zealanders mark 100 years since the first Anzac Day.
- See ww100.govt.nz