More than 70 years after he last served with the RAF during the final stages of World War II Norman Streeter has received his service medals.

For the 95-year-old veteran, who was born in Northwood in the UK and who moved here 35 years ago, it was a moment for reflection and pride as Taradale RSA patron Potene Lima presented the four medals to him at a special ceremony at the RSA on Tuesday afternoon.

It had been a long time coming but Mr Streeter accepted that, for at the end of the war, and after having lost four of his good mates when their Liberator bomber crashed on their very last combat mission, he made the decision not to uplift them.

"I just didn't want to at that time," he said, adding he had just wanted to put everything behind him and get on with his life out of uniform.


He also said there were many others he reckoned were more deserving than him.

But that changed in the wake of volunteer archivist and military researcher Maxine Wilson coming across Mr Streeter's story and delving further into it on the medals front.

She is one of a group of six researchers who have worked in with the Napier and Taradale RSAs and Literacy Aotearoa to record the war histories of veterans which have resulted in three booklets being produced.

When Ms Wilson caught up with Mr Streeter at his Taradale rest home she learned of the outstanding medals, and worked in with the British Ministry of Defence which was still holding them.

She approached Mr Streeter and said she was pursuing his medals and this time he agreed to accept them.

"It has been a long time, yes," he said.

"So oh, I just went along with it."

A spokesman for the British Ministry of Defence was delighted to dispatch the medals along with a note passing on its sincere thanks and appreciation for his service to his country.


Mr Streeter was 17 when war broke out in 1939 and like many young men at that time sought adventure "in the sky" so he applied to the RAF and was accepted as a reserve.

He was initially assigned as a driver of Air Force vehicles, including the fire trucks.

As war heated up in the Pacific it transpired that so did he, after being posted as a driver with 36 RAF Squadron in Tanjore, India in 1942.

As he said, in RAF parlance when posted to a hot country, it was regarded as "time for me to get me knees brown".

He then moved into the heat of Egypt but he said driving was not something he wanted to continue doing and sought front-line duties.

"So I jumped at the chance when given the opportunity to complete a gunnery course - training as an air gunner," Mr Streeter said adding "my adventure was about to start."


In 1944, at just 22, he was posted to Italy to join an air crew with 37 RAF Squadron.

It was a contrast to his former duties in more ways than one.

From extreme heat to extreme cold as ice, snow and frozen mud made up the landscape of the squadron's base at Foggia.

"I was a tail gunner on a Liberator [bomber] - the war was turning in our favour as the Allies advanced on Germany," he said.

"With full loads of bombs we made several raids over Germany, sometimes daylight raids and we encountered plenty of flak that had the planes bucking about."

He said while the bombers did not get too much opposition in the air there times when fighters appeared and he hit the triggers.


The squadron also made sorties over Italy and Hungary, as well as Yugoslavia where supplies were dropped to the Partisans.

"Our crew of seven bonded well," he said, but that bonding was shattered with the end of war less than just a month away.

It was their last mission and as Mr Streeter put it - "luck ran out".

With a full load of bombs the Liberator crashed on take-off after the pilot underestimated the runway and ran out of room.

"I don't remember too much about the crash, except finding myself on the ground, burned and blinded.

"On board we had camera equipment to record photos of our raids and these had exceptionally strong flashes when activated."


Mr Streeter said it appeared the camera flew from its casing and went off in his face at close range.

He was also burned and suffered other injuries and ended up in hospital for six weeks.

"Sadly four of the crew didn't make it."

Two of them were his best mates and he struggled to deal with it.

After being demobbed from service he took part in work schemes offered to returned service personnel.

He also married and in the '60s he and his wife emigrated to Australia and then came to New Zealand, and Napier, which he said he proudly called home.


In his address at the presentation service, Taradale RSA president Peter Grant said he accepted that Mr Streeter did not like a fuss and preferred to stay out of the limelight.

"But we, as veterans, wish to recognise and honour Norman," he said.

A moment of silence was held for the mates he lost, all who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country.

RSA padre the Reverend Bill Chapman blessed the medals as they were presented to Mr Streeter - Flight Sergeant Norman Charles Streeter.

His overall feelings at the end of the day?

"They put on a nice effort - very nice," he said.


And when asked if someone bought him a celebratory drink for the occasion he chuckled and replied "well of course they did."