War vets rare birds
They are some of New Zealand’s most decorated war veterans but most of us have never heard of them.
The King’s Empire Veterans Association is a national organisation established in 1900 by Lord Ranfurly for defence force veterans living in New Zealand.
Members must have been awarded a medal for serving in a New Zealand defence force overseas during a foreign conflict.
On Sunday, the Matamata King’s Empire Veterans raised their glasses to 25 years of comradeship.
President Colin Whyte said it was a proud achievement for the group, who were drawn together by pride and fellowship.
Mr Whyte served in the New Zealand Army Medical Corps for 22 years and was involved in conflict in Malaya and Vietnam.
While the King’s Empire Veterans had a long and proud history, numbers were starting to dwindle, said Mr Whyte. ‘‘We are always looking for more members. A lot of returned servicemen from the army, air force and navy would be eligible to join.’’
The Matamata vets meet once a month at the RSA Bowls Club for a shared lunch and a catch up.
‘‘There’s comradeship, we are all of a similar age and it’s an alternative for returned servicemen,’’ said Mr Whyte.
The group, who now stand at just seven, marked their 25th year with a special lunch at the Matamata RSA.
Members Fred Blank and Bob Chessum were awarded Certificates of Merit for service they have done in the past.
Mr Blank has been a member of the Matamata King’s Empire Veterans for close to 15 years.
He served in the New Zealand Army in World War II and was involved in the Battle of Monte Cassino, one of the biggest campaigns fought in Italy.
He was seriously wounded when he was hit by shrapnel and spent three months in an army hospital.
Mr Chessum fought in WWII and also served as Captain of the Artillery in Korea. He became a King’s Veteran almost 20 years ago.
Member Ron Grondin was the fourth member in attendance on Sunday. Also a WWII veteran, Mr Grondin served his time in the Solomon Islands with the New Zealand Air Force.
If you are interested in becoming a King’s Empire Veteran, please contact Colin Whyte on 888 4491.
Cheers: The King’s Empire Veterans of Matamata raise their glasses to 25 years. From left: Fred Blank, Ron Grondin, Colin Whyte and Bob Chessum.