Sol­dier now home

Sol­dier who died in Malaya re­turned af­ter 58 years

Te Awamutu Courier - - Front Page - BY BETHANY ROLSTON

With Frank Si­na­tra’s voice re­sound­ing from a 1960s replica juke­box, a sol­dier who died in 1960 was car­ried into the Te Awa­mutu RSA to the tune of My Way.

Ge­orge Amas was serv­ing as a pri­vate in the Malayan Emer­gency when he died of a col­lapsed lung.

He was buried at Taip­ing Chris­tian Ceme­tery, Malaysia, for the next 58 years.

Govern­ment poli­cies at the time meant per­son­nel who died over­seas were buried there and were only re­turned to New Zealand if their fam­i­lies paid for repa­tri­a­tion costs.

But a re­cent change in pol­icy means the Govern­ment has funded the re­turn of per­son­nel and de­pen­dants buried over­seas af­ter 1 Jan­uary, 1955.

Last week Ge­orge was one of 27 New Zealand Army sol­diers and one child repa­tri­ated in the New Zealand De­fence Force op­er­a­tion called Te Au­raki (The Re­turn).

On ar­rival at Auck­land Air­port on Tues­day, the re­mains were handed over to fam­i­lies in a ramp cer­e­mony which in­cluded a guard of hon­our of Ser­vice per­son­nel, haka and po¯ whiri.

And last Thurs­day Ge­orge was hon­oured in a rein­ter­ment ser­vice in Te Awa­mutu.

In a cof­fin lined with New Zealand sheep­skin he was car­ried into the RSA by six sol­diers from the 1st Bat­tal­ion Royal New Zealand In­fantry Reg­i­ment.

The sol­diers would have been close to Ge­orge’s age when he died — 27. Led by army padre rev Bob Short, of Hamil­ton, the mov­ing ser­vice in­cluded speeches, prayers and songs.

Rev Short read a de­tailed eu­logy with in­for­ma­tion and mem­o­ries sourced from mil­i­tary records and Ge­orge’s brother Bruce Amas.

Bruce, a Te Awa­mutu res­i­dent, said Ge­orge’s re­turn had been a long time com­ing.

“I didn’t get the op­por­tu­nity to speak at Ge­orge’s fu­neral 58 years ago, so it’s a great hon­our to speak to­day.”

“I was ini­tially in two minds about Ge­orge’s re­turn,” Bruce said.

“But af­ter at­tend­ing Te Au­raki in Auck­land, which was hugely dig­ni­fied and mov­ing, there’s no doubt we made the right de­ci­sion.”

Af­ter the ser­vice Ge­orge’s cof­fin was car­ried out to the tune of Green, Green Grass of Home — a song Ge­orge would have likely known and sang.

He was then laid to rest a fi­nal time in the RSA sec­tion of the Te Awa­mutu Ceme­tery.

Photo / Bethany Rolston

The re­mains of sol­dier Ge­orge Amas are car­ried into the Te Awa­mutu RSA by sol­diers from the 1st Bat­tal­ion Royal New Zealand In­fantry Reg­i­ment.

Pho­tos / Bethany Rolston

Bruce Amas (right) and son Jef­fery leave the rein­ter­ment ser­vice. Be­low, Ge­orge’s cof­fin is car­ried out to the tune of Green, Green Grass of Home.

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