Couple say drunk soldiers an 'embarrassment'

By Hayley Gastmeier hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz -
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Alva and Danny Linton, from Masterton, say the Wairarapa Services and Citizens Club turned a blind eye to "disgusting" behaviour by drunk uniformed soldiers on Anzac Day. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER
Alva and Danny Linton, from Masterton, say the Wairarapa Services and Citizens Club turned a blind eye to "disgusting" behaviour by drunk uniformed soldiers on Anzac Day. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

Claims that "disgusting" behaviour of uniformed soldiers at the Wairarapa Services and Citizens Club on Anzac Day has led to a Masterton couple withdrawing their membership from the club.

A former soldier, Danny Linton, and his wife, Alva, say the Essex St club, which is home to the Masterton RSA, played down the events that took place on the day.

The couple contacted the Times-Age after recently coming across an article published by the paper in April about drunken soldiers outside the club on Anzac Day.

In the article a Masterton father, who declined to be named, said he was shocked at the apparent drunkenness of some soldiers he watched leaving the club.

He said the soldiers dropped a box of glass alcohol bottles on to the footpath before boarding a bus and leaving the smashed bottles on the ground.

"It was disgraceful," he said in April. "They were p****d. It was an embarrassment."

However, Wairarapa Services and Citizens Club president Bill Hey told the Times-Age in April the soldiers, believed to be serving in the 5th Movements Company based at Linton Army Camp and who had visited the club during Anzac Day commemorations, had behaved flawlessly.

The Lintons dispute this, saying they were at there on the day around noon and witnessed the club turn a blind eye to drunken soldiers in uniform misbehaving. They said there was a particular group of at least six women and men who were displaying intimidating, rude and inconsiderate behaviour inside the club.

"These guys there, they were p****d," said Mr Linton, who served in Malaya as a private from 1961 to 1963 and was a founding member of the New Zealand Army Band.

"I was very disappointed with how my old uniform was treated. So much so that as far as I was concerned I didn't want anyone to know I was in the Army."

He said his main "beef" was the fact that senior officers and non-commissioned officers stood by doing nothing.

"These guys were sitting in uniform, paying homage to fallen soldiers who wore the same bloody uniform, and they treated it like s***."

Mrs Linton, a former prison officer, said the group "deliberately" blocked her and her husband's access to the dance floor.

This occurred after she had asked a tall sitting soldier with his legs stretched out to pull them in so as not to trip anyone up. "The behaviour of the group of army personnel was disgusting," Mrs Linton said.

"I really felt for the those servicemen in there -- they were just shaking their heads. It wasn't a day of celebration, it was a day of commemoration."

After noticing the drunk soldiers "were still being served" alcohol, Mrs Linton reported the fact to Ashly Braggins, who is on the Wairarapa Services and Citizens Club executive committee.

She said he had "brushed it off".

"The club are just denying any knowledge of that behaviour and in actual fact they were well aware."

Mr Braggins said on Wednesday he "was fairly busy that day" and did not remember being approached by Mrs Linton.

Club president Bill Hey said on Wednesday he stood by his comments made in April.

"I was there from 4.30 in the morning and six at night and I certainly don't believe there was any misbehaviour whatsoever.

"There were no soldiers rolling around drunk."

Mr and Mrs Linton said they would not be renewing their membership with the Wairarapa Services and Citizens Club.

A New Zealand Defence Force spokesperson said an investigation into the Anzac Day incident involving the New Zealand Army personnel outside the club had been carried out.

"One soldier was identified as being responsible for accidentally smashing some bottles outside the club and as a result wrote a letter of apology to the club board.

"The soldier was extremely remorseful for their actions and delivered the letter in person," the NZDF spokesperson said.

Masterton RSA president Bob Hill said to his knowledge there were not any soldiers exhibiting disorderly behaviour on Anzac Day while at the club.

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