As one of the few WWII veterans left in Hawke's Bay, 97-year-old Norman Bitters was determined to make the most of Anzac Day. Reporter Blair Voorend joined him.

Norman Bitters didn't just want to go to one Anzac service, he wanted to go to three.

Norman Bitters, 97, was one face among thousands at Hawke's Bay Anzac services, but he was a pretty special one. Photo / Paul Taylor
Norman Bitters, 97, was one face among thousands at Hawke's Bay Anzac services, but he was a pretty special one. Photo / Paul Taylor

Starting the day at 7am we meet Norman down at the Royal Naval Centre in Napier where the annual service was held to honour those who fought in WWI with the New Zealand Navy. Bitters, John Barham and Walter "Les" Morice are three of the few known living survivors in Hawke's Bay.

Having first been deployed by the Navy into the Pacific during WWII, Bitters was on a naval ship just off the coast of the Solomon Islands.

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"That's where my D-Day story is - as part of the Navy in the Solomons was exactly where I was when D-Day hit in 1944."

Norman and his sons, Rodney (back) and John (front), at the naval service in Napier. Photo / Paul Taylor
Norman and his sons, Rodney (back) and John (front), at the naval service in Napier. Photo / Paul Taylor

From there Norman and his two sons, Rodney and John, set off for Taradale to take part in the civic service where he participated in reading the Ode to the Fallen as well as taking up one of the flags with assistance from his sons.

After a few beers down at the Taradale RSA it was off to the final service of the day in Napier at Memorial Square where Norman was an invited guest of Napier RSA President John Purcell.

Having wrapped things up by midday it was back home to Taradale RSA where more drinks were enjoyed.

When asked why he still continues to commit to so many services and continues to do so much at his age, he said: "I do it for those who aren't here. That's why I come every year and do my part every Anzac Day because I am only one of the many who have already gone and I do it for them."

Norman Bitters is assisted to carry one of the flags for Taradale's civic service. Photo / Paul Taylor
Norman Bitters is assisted to carry one of the flags for Taradale's civic service. Photo / Paul Taylor

Norman continued to serve in the Navy for a few more years after WWII but left after his father got ill.

He built and moved into his home in Taradale to start a family in 1953.

"We built a home not too far from here (Taradale RSA) and me, my wife and our family lived there for over 40 years," Bitters said.

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After his wife started to suffer from dementia they moved to a retirement home where she died.

"I'm not as quick or fit as I used to be, but they treat me well and I'm happy so that's all that matters," he said.

For Norman, Anzac Day is when many of his family come from all over the world to visit and share it with him.

Both of his sons serve in armed services in other parts of the world, with Rodney in Australia and John in America. He also has a grandson who is currently based in Baghdad.

"I'm just proud. I'm absolutely proud of what they have become and what they have been able to achieve for the service," Norman said, his face beaming.