Salute to our fallen

Auckland City Harbour News - - Front Page - By Janie Smith

MEM­O­RIES of war will be in the minds of two vet­er­ans as they lay a wreath in hon­our of the An­zacs at Auck­land Gram­mar School on Fri­day.

Bryce Rope of Green­lane and Ron May­hill of Ko­hi­mara­mara both started at Auck­land Gram­mar as third for­m­ers in 1937 and joined the air force straight out of school.

“I went from short pants into a blue uni­form,” says Mr Rope.

They will lay the wreath at the school ceno­taph along­side pre­fects Mark Turner and Kieran Pilkington.

The men were only 19 when they saw ac­tive ser­vice in Europe dur­ing World War Two, Mr Rope fly­ing fighter bombers and Mr May­hill as a bomb aimer and ob­server.

They trained in Canada be­fore head­ing to Bri­tain, but Mr Rope was held back for a year to be a flight in­struc­tor.

He be­lieves the ex­tra ex­pe­ri­ence and a year with­out ac­tion saved his life.

Mr May­hill was al­ready in ser­vice by that time, drop­ping bombs from Lan­caster air­planes.

“The first big thrill was see­ing blacked out Bri­tain and get­ting close to the war,” he says.

“The old­est of our crew was 20 and the rest of us were 19. It was awe­some and a huge ad­ven­ture but it got se­ri­ous later on.

“If we’d been a bit older, we would have thought more but we were do­ing our job. I can still re­mem­ber a lot of it, it’s just vivid,” says Mr May­hill.

He can still pic­ture the eerie yel­low light from fighter flares in the night sky as he dropped bombs over Ger­many.

Mr Rope also has strong mem­o­ries of see­ing parts of Bri­tain flat­tened by bomb­ing.

“All around St Paul’s Cathe­dral was flat­tened but it was still stand­ing there supreme. A bomb fell through the dome but didn’t go off.”

In­jury ended Mr May­hill’s tour of duty when the front of a plane he was in ex­ploded.

“I still have per­spex in my eyes,” he says.

He was awarded the Dis­tin­guished Fly­ing Cross for his ser­vice and came back to New Zealand to teach at Auck­land Gram­mar for 30 years.

Mr Rope was lucky enough to es­cape in­jury and also re­turned home, where he had long in­volve­ment with the All Blacks, in­clud­ing coach­ing them in 1983 and 1984.

The two men are hon­oured to lay the wreath in me­mory of the An­zacs and both at­tend ser­vices ev­ery year for the oc­ca­sion.

“I’m very pleased to do it,” says Mr Rope.

Mark and Kieran are also proud to rep­re­sent the school for the me­mo­rial and both vol­un­teered for the role.

“The An­zacs gave their lives for us, it doesn’t hurt to give 45 min­utes to re­mem­ber what they did,” says Mark.

The ser­vice will be held on April 25 in the school hall at 9.30am.

The guest speaker for the event is old boy and his­to­rian Lind­say Diggel­mann, who started at the school in 1977.

Morn­ing tea will be served at 10.15am and all are wel­come to at­tend.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Hon­our­ing An­zacs: From left: Auck­land Gram­mar School pre­fects Kieran Pilkington and Mark Turner, and old boys Ron May­hill and Bryce Rope will lay wreaths at the school ceno­taph on Anzac Day this Fri­day.

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