For Havelock North man and ex-serviceman Alan Curry the 70-year wait was well and truly worth it.

At a special presentation at Waiapu House in Havelock North yesterday he stepped forward to be awarded two service medals by Club Hastings RSA welfare team Sandra McQuinlan and Alan Dempsey for his service with the RAF during the Malayan conflict era of the 1940s and 50s.

McQuinlan pinned the medals upon his chest - the United Kingdom General Service Medal Class Malaya, and the United Kingdom Veterans Badge.

Curry, now in his late 80s, stood with pride and there was a great round of applause from other residents and staff of Waiapu House — some who later admitted they felt quite tearful with joy.

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"Oh yes, it was worth the wait," Curry said quietly with a smile afterwards, explaining how he initially turned them down.

Having turned 18, he had been posted to RAF headquarters in Changi (Singapore) in late 1948 having been conscripted under the National Service scheme and completing training as a driver for the RAF.

After a month-long voyage from Southampton, which included a brief stopover in Colombo, he arrived in Singapore and served there during the Malayan Emergency before being posted to Hong Kong.

After his time overseas he returned to the UK to complete his nearly three-year National Service commitment.

It was when his sergeant approached, before his departure for home, and said he qualified for the medals that he initially said no, because his sergeant said he would have to sign for them.

"I told him I did not apply for medals — I wasn't going to sign anything."

He also said he had not experienced gunfire during his duties so did not feel comfortable about it for that reason also.

But it was the resolve of another Malaya veteran, Alan Dempsey, who has long been involved in RSA welfare duties, who finally got them pinned on him.

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He approached the Ministry of Defence in the UK and sought details about Curry's service years, and it transpired he still qualified for the medals and they were there for him if he wanted them.

This time there was no paperwork required and nothing for Curry to sign.

The RSA welfare crew took care of all that.

"They arrived here about a week later — and now, here we are," Dempsey said.

"This has made my day to see Alan get his medals at last."

He told the veteran that not hearing shellfire during his time with the RAF was not the issue.

"He served - he did his service and that needs to be recognised."

Curry was also clearly delighted to finally don his medals, although was not making a big fuss about it.

"I want to thank the RSA and I also want to thank the staff here (at Waiapu House)."

Then he simply looked at the medals on his chest and quietly said "I feel I have achieved something".

After his service years he left England to come to New Zealand in the late 1950s, having met and gotten to know a Gisborne family who were in London.

They told him their son was going to get married and he said he would head over to be there.

Which he did, and he stayed, working on the farming front in Gisborne, Te Kuiti and Taumarunui before settling in Hawke's Bay.

"This is a very special day for Alan," McQuinlan said.

"He's finally got his medals of service for his country."