ATC Cadet Sergeant James Cox meets Prince Harry.
21 May 2014
Air Training Corps (ATC) Cadet Sergeant James Cox, of Browns Bay, was one of only two cadets who had the opportunity to meet Prince Harry at the Cassino Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery on Saturday.
The 16 year old said the highlight of his first trip to Europe has been talking to the New Zealand veterans who have returned to the Italian town for the 70th anniversary of the Battles of Cassino.
James, who has been an ATC cadet for three and a half years, says he has been really enjoying hearing the veterans' stories about what they did in the war.
"They have been through so much, and they can remember all the details. Some of it is funny, but a lot of it is sad," he said.
James was one of two cadets selected to accompany the delegation of 38 veterans because of the excellent work he contributed to the 150th Cadet anniversary earlier this year.
When he arrived at the Cassino Cemetery he was struck by just how many graves there were.
"Just seeing all the graves there made it really clear just how many people died."
James’ roles have included wreath bearing at the various ceremonies and assisting the 38 New Zealand Cassino war veterans.
The veterans are all in their nineties and are accompanied by a 25-strong team of health professionals and carers from the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand.
Prince Harry thanked the veterans for their service during the Italian Campaign, and stopped to talk to members of the NZDF who are accompanying the veterans. He told the NZDF Maori Cultural group that he enjoyed their singing and that it made the occasion very special.
The Cassino Railway Station was of special significance to the New Zealanders because it was the scene of a fierce battle between the 28th Maori Battalion and the opposing forces.
There are 456 New Zealanders buried in the cemetery, and a further 55 names are listed on the Cassino Memorial, their final resting place unknown. The veterans have attended three ceremonies, one at the Cassino Railway Station, and two at the cemetery, which Prince Harry also attended.