We did it!! We did it!! This year's mini-reunion was a marvellous success.
Because if the age of our members and the fact that Father Time is becoming more active we had assumed that we would be lucky indeed to have 25 members in attendance – how wrong we were for incredibly there were 41 present including our C.O. Noel James, who has recovered remarkably well considering his recent illness.
In fact we had members reporting in from Whangarei in the far North down to Tauranga, Gisborne and even Napier. Even the newsletter typist Julie Carr put in an appearance (only for a short while she said) however in no time she was surrounded by armourers who made sure that she was looked after and entertained and no doubt Ho Humm the Chinese armourer would have approved if he had been present!
One of the highlights was a most interesting talk by Eric Kelly who as Welfare Officer for the Taradale RSA reminded all members of the importance of being aware of the many benefits including the Veterans pensions which a particular RSA member may be entitled to, and the necessity to get in to tance in any way. Eric says “Do it now!” before its too late!!!
It was also interesting to see Doug Black (Napier) having a long conversation with John Freakes from Whangarei and no doubt on the subject of the mysterious change over from the squadron motor-cycle to a US Jeep on the servicing unit's inventory – perhaps one day all will be revealed!
Another first timer was Chris Walton the son of the late Ian Walton (30 Squadron Pilot) and accompanied with his young daughter – how wonderful it is to see our younger generation taking an interest in us old veterans.
Following our mini reunion it has occurred to me that these events are unique indeed, and not knowing how I could describe my feelings I have taken the liberty in copying a paragraph recorded in the newsletter of the US Marines Historical Foundation titled “The Reunion” a copy of which has been passed on to me to which I am indebted.
I now know why men who have been to war yearn to reunite. Not to tell war stories or look at old pictures. Not to laugh or weep. Comrades gather because they long to be with men who once acted their best, men who suffered and sacrificed, who were stripped raw, right down to their humanity.
I did not pick these men. They were delivered by fate and the US Marine Corps. But I know them in a way I know no other men. I have never given anyone such trust. They were willing to guard something more precious than my life. They would have carried my reputation, the memory of me. It was part of the bargain we all made, the reason we were so willing to die for one another.
I cannot say where we are headed. Ours are not perfect friendships; those are the province of legend and myth. A few of my comrades drift far from me now, sending back only occasional word. I know that one day even these could fall to silence. Some of the men will stay close, a couple, perhaps, always at hand.
As long as I have memory, I will think of them all, every day. I am sure that when I leave this world, my last thought will be of my family and my comrades…. such good men.
Recently I was handed a small covered log book for me to read before it was passed on to our 30 Squadron's museum at the Gisborne Aircraft Preservation Society at Darton Field, Gisborne. It turned out to be the late Reg Curtis's Aircrew log book which made interesting reading. Many people are under the impression that because our training was done at Gisborne all the personnel especially the aircrews were inexperienced and that it was everyone's first experience when we embarked for overseas. This of course was far from the truth as many of us, including some ground staff had already experienced at first hand, contact with the enemy forces.
In Reg Curtis's case he originally embarked from initial training at Levin in June 1941 for aircrew training at #1 Wireless School, Montreal, Canada, and