War vets rare birds

Matamata Chronicle - - Front Page - By NI­COLA STE­WART

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.

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