Soldier now home
Soldier who died in Malaya returned after 58 years
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.
The remains of soldier George Amas are carried into the Te Awamutu RSA by soldiers from the 1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.
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.