Saturday, 17 November 2018

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Mercury Bay RSA to commemorate Armistice Day and celebrate 90th anniversary

By Jack Biddle

The Mercury Bay RSA will both commemorate Armistice Day and celebrate their 90th anniversary this coming Sunday (11 November).

The armistice was signed 100 years ago between the allied forces and Germany on 11 November 1918.  After four long years, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns famously fell silent and World War I was declared over.    

Along the way many New Zealanders were injured and many lives were lost.

Members of the Mercury Bay RSA will participate in a parade at 11:00am on Sunday at Soldiers Memorial Park in Whitianga. The fire siren will sound at exactly 11:00am. That will be followed by two minutes of silence and a short ceremony. Members of the public are welcome to attend the parade.

After the parade, the RSA members will enjoy a light lunch at the Mercury Bay Club.

The Royal New Zealand Returned Services Association (RNZRSA) was formed in New Zealand in 1916 by returning World War I soldiers to provide support and comfort for servicemen and women and their families. It is currently made up of 182 RSAs around the country with more than 100,000 members.

Local RSAs are managed by their own executive committees while sharing the RNZRSA’s vision and values.

Mercury Bay RSA president, Bruce Collier, says that while the actual year the Mercury Bay RSA was founded is well documented, the exact date it officially started is unknown. “Combining our anniversary with Armistice Day seemed most appropriate and this year it is even more significant with a very special remembrance day across New Zealand, the Commonwealth and beyond to mark 100 years of the armistice signing,” says Bruce.

The initial committee of the Mercury Bay RSA was made up of Alan Clague, Jack O’Sullivan, Jack Maxwell, Ces Anderson, Max Leadley and Vic Corcombe. When the Mercury Bay RSA was founded, their club rooms were based at the Sound Shell close to where the Mercury Bay Library is currently situated at Soldier’s Memorial Park. The RSA moved to its current location at the Mercury Bay Club in 1976 when the club’s building at the corner of Cook Drive and Campbell Street in Whitianga was opened.

“The local RSA had a significant input into the establishment of the Mercury Bay Club as both groups share a common theme of friendship and fellowship,” says Bruce, who served in both Vietnam and Malaysia in the late 1960s.  “In return, the constitution of the Mercury Bay club allows the RSA to display our memorabilia and to hold our special commemorations at the club.”  

The memorabilia on display were donated to the RSA by or are on loan from family members of soldiers who actively served in the armed forces. Items from both World Wars plus other conflicts that New Zealand forces were active in - including Malaysia, Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Borneo and Afghanistan - are on display.  

The Mercury Bay RSA encourages family members with the unenviable task of clearing out the possessions of loved ones who have passed away to pass on any old war memorabilia to them rather than sending it to the tip for disposal. Understandably many family members will have little knowledge of what potential treasure they have inherited and the Mercury Bay RSA we would love to at least comment on the memorabilia or place it on display with the family’s approval.

The current display is definitely worth giving up a few minutes of time for. To stand in silence among all the memorabilia and to reflect back on what were some of the world’s darkest days, is a sobering experience.   

While we should never forget those who fought for the freedom we now enjoy, we should also take a moment to be thankful to people like Bruce Collier and his fellow Mercury Bay RSA committee members - Trevor Fraser, Linda Fraser, Derryck Tomalin, Roger Beasley, Max Thomas, Tony Remnant and Ian Diprose (The Mercury Bay RSA chaplain) - who work hard to keep their memories alive.

Pictured is Bruce Collier, president of the Mercury Bay RSA.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.