VICTOR FOUR COMPANY

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​​BURNHAM 2019 - 50th ANNIVERSARY

6 RAR/NZ (ANZAC) BATTALION  •  SOUTH VIETNAM 1969 – 1970

Burnham Reunion Report 7th -8th -9th May 2019

The 50th Anniversary of our Deployment to Vietnam, 8th May 1969

The Reunion Committee;

Andy Peters (Chairman), Glenys and Gordy Nairn (Secretary/Treasurer), Phil O’Connor( RNZAF Co-ordinator and Wine Gatherer), John (Fiti) White (Spiritual Advisor), Sony Hona (CQMS) Mike Pehi, Willie Eruera, and ‘Bubs’ Kupe.



​The Flight Down-RNZAF NZ7002

I believe world history was made by our RNZAF when they transported V4 Vietnam Veterans and their families from Whenuapai
​to a reunion at Christchurch in the same aircraft that flew the guys to Vietnam some 50 years before.

The first flight departed around 7.30am on 7th May 2019 from Whenuapai and because of fog, the scheduled stop at Hamilton was diverted to Tauranga. After landing at CHCH, the Herc returned to Ohakea then onto Wellington and landed the 2nd flight at CHCH.


Reflections and memories from Pete Ramsay

       •  The size of a C130 when walking out in the first light of dawn reminded me of the back end of the tour and the RTNZ from Changi in 1970 where it took us three take-offs over three days for the plane to be correctly pressurised for flying

       •  Boarding and not being as nimble as one was all those years ago so “LIFT YOUR FEET SOLDIER”
or you will face plant as you trip over something on the floor

     •  The seating, well yes both bum cheeks quickly remembered the nylon seat and I chose the one with the
bar running forward which required me to position a private piece of my anatomy for comfort

     •  Then the seat belt, again a reminder that this is not plug and play as in the car, it required some patience
and application and don’t forget Bev hasn’t seen this mechanical excellence before!

    •  Then the waft of the fuel, unlocked memories of the C123 flight from Vung Tau to Nui Dat with the
Advance Party as I had flown up on the Bristol Freighter, and the Caribou flight on whatever
operation we deployed on

•  The toilet well that was going to be a challenge for the brave who wanted to be adventurous,
the upgrade in 2019 was the bottle of hand sanitiser available now

       • The take-off, well yes ear plugs were a bonus and one forgets quickly the angle of departure
and how one quickly slides at an angle to compensate

     •  Once levelled off we were able to walk around and try to establish a loc stat through the windows,
although the “stat” bit didn’t apply. However picked up Lake Grassmere with my 20/20 vision
quite quickly to confirm we were going the right way

•  By this time Bev was well acquainted with the RNZAF upgrade and proceeded in her role as “Mrs Lee”

•  The short runway landing at Tauranga was another experience and bought back memories again
​of short take offs and landings in years gone past.

     •  BUT……..how durable is the old C130? It matches the personalities of all the guys and Pam Miley Terry 100% …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

During the reunion, Pete Ramsay who had brought one of our books from Perth, had all of the V4 Veterans sign it.

Phil will be meeting with the Chief of Defence Force and Chief of Air to present 'our Company Book', the DVD and the two flight crew lists (8th May 1969 & 7th May 2019) to them with the request to pass them on to 40 Squadron, Base Auckland so that the historical significance of this trip on the 7th May 2019 is recorded for prosperity.


​TV1 News covered the occasion. Please click on the link.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/16pw2ZFRQ9T91rKsWu9FV1TYRgJJTUwJV/view?usp=sharing



Attendance

The following V4 guys attended the reunion and in most cases, they were accompanied by their wives,
partners and their whanau. In addition to the committee, other attendees were;

‘The Mighty Quin’ Rodda, David Keay, ‘General’ Benfell, Willie Peacock, Johnny Edwards, Tom Gordon, Bruce Drysdale, ‘Pee Jay’ Clark, ‘Nobby’ Clarke, Hugh Moran, ‘Buster’ Nathan, Pete Ramsay, Grahame Alexander, Lindsay Churchill, Bill Couper, Bill Doherty, Simon Dunn, Morrie Edwards, Charlie Fong, ‘Zac’ Harris, Ray Howearth, Doug McNally, Kevin Mitchell, Francey Nicholls, Mackie Paaka, Dave Page, ‘Wheels’ Pearce, Allan Plaisted, Frankie Reid, Jake Reihana, ‘Jeb’ Rowley, Deano Simpson, ‘Squirrel’ Symons, Jim Tainui, Paul Thomas, ‘Beaver’ Thompson, Jim Tocher, ‘Specs’ Walker, Dave Richard-Preston, Pam Miley-Terry and ‘Self’.

Other V4 Next-of-Kin, Vietnam Veterans and associates included;

Yvonne Morrison (Don’s widow), John, Grant and Wayne Williams (Jack’s son and Jack’s brothers),
Huia Davis (Jerry Barrett’s nephew), Miki Apiti (V2 & 161 Bty), Spiro Cosmatos (W2) and Oto Simmonds (4 Troop SAS),
Linda Smith (widow of Sam Smith W2 and ex-WRAC).


Apologies were received from;

Wira Gardiner who was in the Middle East, travelling on to Italy then to North Africa. On the 17th May he was back in Italy to commemorate the 75th year of the Battle of Cassino. He was escorting the last surviving member of B Company (The Penny Divers), 28th Maori Battalion, Private Robert Gillies. Robert also attended the launch of Wira’s Book, Ake Ake Kia Kaha E! at Ohinemutu, Rotorua on the 6th April 2019

Other apologies were received from; Harley Pope (UK), Dennis Barrow (Australia) and from NZ; Jim Stokes, Fred Campbell,
Terry O’Kane, Kevin (Bones) Flanagan, Karin Hall (Brian’s Daughter), Ron Hands, Bob Derwin, Winnie Ashby,
Brian (Biggie-Rat) Sadler, Ray ( Puku) Davidson, Mike Wood, Peter Douglas (Jerry Barrett’s nephew) and Olly Taukamo.

A total of 147 attended the reunion.



Powhiri (Formal Welcome)

This began on our old 1 Battalion Depot Parade Ground, now the 2nd/1st Battalion Parade Ground that had been enlarged with the removal of Taiping and Ipoh Barracks down each side. Modern two storied barracks of single person rooms now prevail.

The Wero (Challenge) by 3 warriors from the unit was accepted by Andy Peters

Women from the Tangata Whenua (hosts) called us forward which was answered by Bonny Harris,
who led our group onto the Parade Ground.

There was a speech by the Executive Officer (Battalion 2IC), Major Jeremy White, who welcomed us back to Burnham.

Mackie Paaka replied on our behalf.

In what followed was without doubt, the most awe-inspiring, spine-tingling, emotional and tear flowing encounter
​that I and arguably everyone present had ever experienced.

It was a rousing Haka performed by 150 plus soldiers of 2/1 Bn to us. They gave it their all, an absolutely unbelievable event.

Truly, a memorable and unforgettably experience.

Click on;

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/42wkxp0echh152z/AADcF4riTAznw8jxyLc-az-Za?dl=0

We were able to meet them afterwards which brought more tears.

My words cannot truly express the occasion.

‘What a Welcome Home!’

Kia ora to the Officers and Soldiers of 2nd/1st Battalion, RNZIR.

‘You did us proud and We are Home!’

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Memorial Service

This was conducted in the old Camp Cinema.

The Reunion CQMS, Sony Hona had laid out the 7 Roll of Honour flags, 7 portraits and ‘In Memoriam’ Flag and Picture
in a poignant display. Our V4 flag was centralised with the Australian and NZ Flags on either side.

Two camouflaged Poncho Liners added to the setting.

John (Fiti) White was the Reunion Spiritual Advisor who conducted the service with the assistance of pastor, Dave Page. A truly moving experience. Well done guys, you both did a great job.

Ray (Squirrell) Symons and Phil O’Connor read out the Roll of Honour and In Memoriam List. 64 of our guys have passed on since our deployment.

I believe that this represents more than 50% of our initial posted strength of V4 to Vietnam.

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Troop interaction

After lunch we had the opportunity to interact with the 2nd/1st troops when were invited onto the parade ground by Major Brendon Jones and speak with them and view their personal weapons and equipment.

I personally spoke with one guy who was fitted with ear phones and speaker microphone. ‘Are you the Signaller?’ I asked.
‘Nah, I’m the Lead Scout!’

Every soldier has this communication set-up! No hand signals there guys!

I also noticed that a lot of them were wearing sun-glasses.

As the Company began their open formation advance, the kids suddenly found them isolated and in a huddle, when they began their forward movement. This was another highlight which they will remember. ‘Envelopment?’

The troops knew of the training areas; 189 Acre paddock, West Melton, Lake Rudd, Tekapo………...but they had never heard of the ‘Wharfedale Track’, ‘Coopers Creek’, Lees’ Valley or ‘Little Malaya’.

“Thanks guys. Kia kaha!”

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Presentation

This was the V4 DVD production by David Blyth of largely interviews with John White, Paul Thomas, Andy Peters,
Pam Miley- Terry, Quin Rodda and Self.

It was shown on the big screen of the camp cinema and it was very noticeable that the families of those who featured, recognised their loved ones and how slim and young ‘they once were’, “I say again,”………………….. “they once were”.






















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V4 Meeting

The V4 meeting followed and I don’t intend to go through what was discussed but it is important to inform you that the next V4 Reunion in 2021 will be held in Masterton under the Chairmanship of Morrie Edwards.

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Formal Dinner

This was preceded by drinks and sherries’ in the WO’s & SNCO’s Mess. There were the usual formal toasts
and a sumptuous buffet meal.

There were speeches from Victor Harris, Faye Pearce who introduced Chris Clark, who had written and recorded a V4 song.
It was played to the audience.

Bev Ramsay also shared her experiences.

Paul Thomas spoke about the difficulties that he encountered for the Repatriation Project and a proposed upcoming
TV Documentary about how wives and families cope when their kinfolk go to war and on their return.

Dave Richard-Preston presented two plaques; one from our FO Party and one from 101 Field Battery,
RAA to V4 which was accepted by Geoff Dixon in his new role of The Official V4 Historian.

Geoff thanked the 2/1 Executive Officer, Major White and the RSM, WO1 Wayne Nepia,
(Pace-stick) for the welcome and rousing haka by the troops.

On presenting two DVDs’ to the XO, he asked that all the troops who took part, be able to view it and to inform them,
that the 6 personnel who were interviewed on the DVD, were on their parade ground for their powhiri.

At the conclusion of dinner, we adjourned to the bar. Apparently, the last stragglers left there at 3am
but were at breakfast 4 hours later.

Aahh the stamina still exists amongst some!

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Farewells

After breakfast on Thursday and the tidying up of rooms, folding blankets and  linen left outside our doors we all gathered at the mess for individual and group farewells.

This is always a sad occasion, saying our ‘Good-byes’.

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Summary

This was our most significant reunion that was enjoyed by everyone who attended; the guys, wives, partners,
sons, daughters, mokopuna and others.

The RNZAF Herc, bus transfers, reception, meals, barrack accommodation, costs, facilities, bar prices,
​weather and babysitting service on both nights and the reunion programme was great.

The Support from 2/1 was fantastic.

Our 50th Anniversary reunion was celebrated well and one could not ask for anything better.

Well done everyone!