NZDF

Guarding the Battle Colour

Warrant Officer Class One Shane McClay is part of the New Zealand Defence Force contingent in Belgium for the Battle of Messines commemorations
Warrant Officer Class One Shane McClay is part of the New Zealand Defence Force contingent in Belgium for the Battle of Messines commemorations.

8 June 2017

Guarding a regimental colour is a serious job and a Hawke’s Bay soldier has been tasked with ensuring it gets safely to the other side of the world and back to commemorate a First World War battle.

Warrant Officer Class One Shane McClay is the Colour Warrant Officer in the New Zealand Defence Force contingent commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Messines.

The colour he needs to protect is the 2nd Canterbury, Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast Battalion Regimental Colour.

It was on the Western Front that New Zealand made its most significant contribution to the First World War, and also where it suffered the greatest loss of life.

Raised in Waipukurau, Warrant Officer Class One McClay is the training Sergeant Major for The Army Depot (TAD) at Waiouru Military Camp and helps shape future soldiers for the New Zealand Army.

With seven children and six grandchildren he is no stranger to helping young people attain their dreams.

“My day job is providing management advice and counsel to commanders at TAD on correct policy and training procedures of recruits,” he said.

A former Central Hawke’s Bay College student, he joined the Army straight from school in 1987 and went into the Royal New Zealand Infantry Battalion.

“It was what I always wanted to do and where I saw myself for the rest of my life. I’ve made it a lifetime career and I couldn’t think of doing anything else,” he said.

Being part of the commemoration contingent is a career highlight for him.

“I feel extremely proud and honoured to be given the opportunity to be able to visit these battle areas that to this point have only been a name on unit colours, lines or platoons.

“To be part of something with all its significance is something I have been looking forward to for a number of years.”

The two main commemorations in Belgium have been the New Zealand National Commemorative Service to Mark the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Messines at Messines Ridge British Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and a sunset ceremony at the New Zealand Battlefield Memorial in New Zealand Memorial Park, both on June 7.

Being based in Waiouru means Warrant Officer Class One McClay can indulge his passion for the great outdoors. He is a keen fisherman, golfer, hunter, mountain biker and takes part in multisport events.

This page was last reviewed on 8 June 2017, and is current.