25 April 2013
NZ veterans at the Pacific-War Commemoration in New Caledonia
Eighty-four New Zealand veterans of the War in the Pacific joined their comrades of the French and Australian forces today at Bir Hakeim Square in Noumea to remember those who had fallen.
The veterans, aged between 86 and 96, are in New Caledonia to mark the 70th anniversary of New Zealand’s involvement in the War in the Pacific.
The service attended by New Caledonian dignitaries, military forces, Minister of Veteran Affairs Hon Michael Woodhouse and Chief of Navy Rear Admiral Jack, conducted under a clear blue sky, was described as incredibly moving by veteran Coastwatcher John Jones (92) as he wiped away a tear.
“It was lovely, incredibly moving and a very proud moment.”
Traffic was diverted around the Square to create a solemnity punctuated by local school children singing the French national anthem and the New Zealand Defence Force’s Maori Cultural Group singing hymns.
Air Commodore (Rtd) Malcolm (Mal) Gunton (89) laid a wreath of behalf of the veterans and said he was also “very proud” to be part of the ceremony and was very grateful for the warm reception the veterans had received since they had arrived in New Caledonia on Tuesday.
Chief of Navy Rear Admiral Jack Steer was representing Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones said it was “a privilege to be with the veterans and part of the service.”
“These men served their country when asked and we should give them the ultimate respect they deserve for their service. For each one here today there are many who did not come home or who have died since the war,” he said.
The veterans will also take part in a commemoration to mark the 70th anniversary of New Zealand’s involvement in the War in the Pacific at the New Zealand Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in Bourail tomorrow.
The veterans will return to New Zealand on 27 April 2013.
For further information please contact Katherine O’Donnell, Media Advisor – Defence Communications Group, on 021 664 293.