Veterans, widows and other family members marked the 60th anniversary of the Malaya Second battalion's sailing from Wellington with a final reunion in Tauranga. Reunion attendees share their reflections with Sandra Conchie about what the special final gathering means to them.
Hundreds of red poppies were placed on Tauranga RSA cenotaph as Malaya emergency Second Battalion veterans and family members held their final reunion.
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November 6 marked 60 years since local veteran Dick Frew and his battalion mates sailed from Wellington as part of the Commonwealth forces fighting in Malaya.
Frew, 84, a former Tauranga RSA president, was among the 1300 New Zealanders who served in Malaya during 1948-64. Fifteen were killed.
Yesterday Frew, who served in Malaya from 1959 to 1961, and his fellow Second Battalion members held their final reunion in Tauranga.
This included a special service at the Tauranga RSA cenotaph lead by Reverend John Hebenton followed by a wreath-laying and 443 red poppies placed on the cenotaph by veterans and widows of servicemen.
Reunion organiser Evan Torrance, 83, from Palmerston North said final gathering which involved 45 veterans and 45 family members was not only special but a sad occasion.
"I think it is wonderful so many of our men, their wives, widows and family members have made a special effort to attend our final gathering, particularly given some of them have serious medical problems," he said.
Torrance said reunions such as this were important as they helped to cement lifelong friendships and paid homage to those who served in Malaya and have since died.
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"Nothing can compare to the comradeship and tight bonds of friendships and care formed all those years ago, and gatherings like this continue to perpetuate the memories of those who served and died," he told the Bay of Plenty Times.
Torrance said placing 443 poppies on the cenotaph had extra significance yesterday.
"Our first poppy is for [Lance Corporal ] Syd Giles, who was 82, and he was buried in Akatarawa Cemetery in Hutt Valley on Monday," he said during the service.
Among the seven widows at the reunion were Pamela Ferry, 79, from Auckland and Martha Nathan, 88, from Kaiwaka near Wellsford.
Pamela's late husband Sergeant Peter John Ferry was 61 when he died on July 24, 1995.
Martha's husband Sergeant Toko John Nathan died on January 15, 2007 on his 75th birthday, and his twin brother Richard Nathan who also served in Malaya died three years later.
The two women said they had become "firm friends" after attending similar reunions for many years but this gathering was particularly poignant, Mrs Ferry said.
"We have so many memories of our time in Malaya and no matter what happens from here were will continue to keep in touch with each other," Mrs Nathan said.