Nearly six decades after dying whilst serving his country, a soldier from Hastings was finally laid to rest in his home town on Friday.

The memorial service for Private Bruce Harvey Hay, who was accidentally killed in Malaya, on March 25, 1961, aged 21, was conducted in Hastings. Relations and dignitaries, including Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst and Defence Force representatives, attended the ceremony at Clubs Hastings.

Private Hay's ashes were then buried at the RSA Hastings cemetery.

Private Hay was a dog handler with the army and died in an accident whilst serving in Malaya.

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Relative Ann Hay said the ceremony had been very well received.

"My daughter had four photos of him in Malaya and they played them around the screen. Everybody said it was very good, especially with the photos - people had tears in their eyes watching the photos.

"My daughter also came down from Auckland with my grand-daughters and my other son-in-law Kevin was there and he was also in the army."

Private Hay was her late husband's brother, but she never got to meet Bruce.

"I never met him because he was in Malaya when I met my husband. He was 21 when he died and my husband was only 17 at the time."

Private Hay was orginially born in Gisborne where he was brought up on the family farm at Young Nick's Head.

"His father had a farm up there and he was a lover of horses and dogs and so when he went into the army he became a dog tracker."

Private Hay's repatriation was part of the New Zealand Defence Force Repatriation Project "Te Auraki" (The Return), of service personnel and dependants buried in Malaysia, Singapore, Fiji, American Samoa, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Korea, after January 1, 1955.

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As part of the initiative, the Government has agreed to fund the repatriation and make a contribution of $1000 towards a memorial for those interred in a public or private ceremony.