At ease men – Veterans sign off
After 27 years of solid comradeship, the Matamata branch of the King’s Empire Veterans has called it a day.
With numbers dwindling to just three active members, the committee made the tough decision to disband.
President Colin Whyte said they were disappointed efforts to recruit more members had been unsuccessful.
‘‘It’s a very sad occasion,’’ he said at the final meeting last Tuesday.
‘‘But we have had the honour of being part of the only [returned and services association] that only allows men that have seen action in battle.
‘‘ We are proud to have been King’s Empire Veterans and we are proud to have served our country on the battlefield.’’
Whyte served in the New Zealand Army Medical Corps for 22 years and was involved in conflict in Malaya and Vietnam.
He thanked the other remaining members Bob Chessum and Fred Blank for their service and friendship over the years.
Chessum fought in World War II and also served as a Captain of Artillery in Korea. He was secretary of the club for 16 years and was ‘‘ loyal, competent willing’’, said Whyte.
Blank, who first joined the King’s Empire Veterans in Taumaranui three decades ago, was a ‘‘treasure chest of vast experience, common sense and sensible advice’’.
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.
Blank said the group had been a source of companionship and friendship.
‘‘We would yarn about old times,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s a disappointment to end it really but it’s part of an era I suppose.’’
The final meeting was followed by a lunch, with family of past members invited to attend.
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.
Last hurrah: Back from left, Ila Caldon, Colyn and Jean Whyte, Bob Chessum, Joyce Catchpole and Amo Wanoa. Front from left, Fred Blank, Elaine Young and Beverly Chessum.