The Timaru Herald
Honour for wartime work
A humble war veteran, who for 50 years was a Geraldine GP, has been recognised for the top-secret work he performed for the United States during World War II.
Dr Alan Roberts, 91, started a science degree in 1940 at Canterbury University College and ended up in the Pacific as a ‘‘soldier scientist’’, a civilian trained in the use of radar working with the Allies.
Though professing he ‘‘never held a gun in my life’’, Dr Roberts was awarded a Military Cross for bravery after being shot in Peleliu when he went to help an injured US colleague.
It is a ‘‘bit of nonsense’’ though, according to Dr Roberts, who says many men did what he did and were not recognised.
After being injured, he wound up on a US hospital ship going to the United States.
Halfway there, the ship had to turn around because it was being followed by Japanese submarines and Dr Roberts found his way back to New Zealand via Noumea.
He trained in medicine in Dunedin and met his wife, Beatrice, to whom he is still married 62 years later. After he retired the couple moved to Christchurch.
As the radar work was considered top secret at the time, Dr Roberts’ contribution was never acknowledged.
But in June 2012 the US Marine Corps Forces Pacific Band visited New Zealand to celebrate the 70th anniversary of US forces arriving in New Zealand. Dr Roberts and his wife were invited to a celebration at Wigram Air Force Museum.
At the event, he was presented with a commemorative medallion in recognition of his involvement with the US marines. Mrs Roberts said it was an ‘‘exciting evening for a pair of oldies’’.