"We will definitely do this again," said Adam Gibson, a past Levin RSA president and its current patron, about the presentation he led about Anzac Day at Levin East School recently.

The school's pupils had been studying World War I and the school asked the local RSA to send someone to talk to the kids for 15 minutes.

"Just 50 kids, they said. Soon it ballooned to 150 kids and a presentation by five people lasting nearly an hour," said Gibson.

Ray Gempton, WW2 veterans shared some of his war exploits with the children from Levin East School, who had studied WWI and II.
Ray Gempton, WW2 veterans shared some of his war exploits with the children from Levin East School, who had studied WWI and II.

Teacher Veronica Sayer said the five men were visibly nervous at the start, but the kids were spellbound. The school had assembled some photos into a presentation, and showed that on the big screen in the school hall to illustrate the talks.

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The RSA provided some information panels and brought its artillery cabinet full of war trophies, as well as the speakers.

Afterwards the kids swamped the men asking lots of questions and admiring all their medals.

"Ray was tickled pink," said Gibson. Ray Gempton, a 96-year-old World War II vet who shared some of his journey to the battlefields with the children.

He was a gunner, joined in September 1941 at age 17 and went to Waiouru where he trained in artillery. He spent some time in the Wairarapa, Palmerston North and Fort Dawson and eventually went to Egypt, where he got a chance to see King Tutankhamun's tomb and visit the Cairo Museum.

He then went Italy. His daily pay during the war was 70c, he said.

Les MacDonald talks to Levin East School pupils about following your dreams.
Les MacDonald talks to Levin East School pupils about following your dreams.

On the way he acquired a huge anti-aircraft shell, which he carries with him through the war.

Other speakers were Dean Manners, who talked briefly about Korea, Vietnam and other wars New Zealanders had been involved in. Dean was very knowledgeable about all the history as his family had had members in all wars, starting at the Boer War in South Africa.

Another former RSA president, Les MacDonald, urged the kids to follow their dreams.

"Do want you want to do. I do not want any of you to go to war or join the army. You do not want these medals. I got these by being in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said.

Dean Manners and Adam Gibson talk to levin East School students about ANZAC Day.
Dean Manners and Adam Gibson talk to levin East School students about ANZAC Day.

Current RSA president Wayne Kaye played the Last Post to close the meeting.

Veronica Sayer afterwards said the kids chose Anzac Day while considering challenges and choices in their curriculum. They made their own enquiries into its history and meaning.

"They were intrigued to find out so many animals were involved in the war, from dogs, to donkeys, horses and even pigeons.

"The kids loved it. They were still talking about it days later."

"Yes, we were nervous. None of us had ever done this before," said Gibson. "It started small. We were told the kids had been studying and wanted to talk to someone. As we were talking about what and how to do this, it got bigger and bigger but it went really well."

They picked a few members who had lots of medals, a World War II vet, and an experienced peacekeeper among them.

"The kids just kept asking questions. It was so successful, it should be done again," said Gibson.