He was 29 when he took part in the battle of El Alamein as a soldier in the 20th Battalion of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
He never spoke about it much.
He returned to Egypt with the New Zealand contingent to the 50th anniversary commemoration.
He never spoke about that much either and now it’s too late to ask him because he died 13 years ago.
But if Dad was here I am sure he’d appreciate the words of Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman at the 70th anniversary commemoration:
. . . To the New Zealand veterans who are with us today I know this is a very poignant return to El Alamein. You have all lived a whole lifetime in the seven decades since your service here in the flower of your youth. I know that the experiences of the North African campaign will have shaped those years in ways that only your fellow comrades could truly appreciate.
Subsequent generations of New Zealanders are forever indebted, to you and those who rest here in North Africa. We look at you in awe, because you left ordinary everyday life in the streets, in the workplaces and on the farms of New Zealand, and farewelled your loved ones to serve. You made sacrifices which have meant that we who have followed have been able to live in prosperity and peace. You and your mates were ordinary Kiwis who became the greatest of Kiwis. Your country is very, very proud of you.
We will always remember and honour those New Zealanders who fought and died here, and we will continue to defend the values they upheld with such valour.
Dad would also note with the irony of the anniversary commemorations coinciding with the desecration of Jewish graves in Auckland.
This is the sort of ignorance and intolerance against which the men at El Alamein fought.
It shows that 70 years on some idiots neither share nor appreciate the values the soldiers upheld.