Monday, 06 July 2020


Never should we forget

Never should we forget

Looking through the Mercury Bay RSA display of wartime memorabilia - and realising war isn’t just a story, it’s about real people who served, and in some instances died, for us to enjoy the freedoms we have today.

With ANZAC Day approaching, I took some time to look through the Mercury Bay RSA display of wartime memorabilia at the Mercury Bay Club in Whitianga. There are all kinds of things to look at, most of it donated or loaned by members or past members of the RSA. No doubt, it was a moving experience.

There are the medals earned by Flight Lieutenant CAR Simpson during World War One. And the pay book of JA Work. The book was issued to him on 28 June 1916. He was 24 years old. It contained instructions on how to make a will. There’s a rock from Gallipoli. And a newspaper clipping about the New Zealand National Memorial at Chunuk Bair, one of the three high points in the Gallipoli area.

There’s also, as expected, a print with the words of “In Flanders Fields.” I had to pause to read this most famous of wartime poems, written by Canadian John McRae on 3 May 1915 while at the battlefront at Ypres in the Belgium province of West Flanders -

In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly, Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

From World War Two I saw a Russian fur cap and a “tar boosh,” which is similar to an Egyptian fez, from Turkey. I saw, somewhat unexpectedly, an ode to Lili Marlene, a famous German love song, written by a member of the British Eighth Army. There are many local names who served - Harsant, Bruce, Tucker, Simpson to name a few. There’s also a shell dressing and a first field dressing. And a menu from De Paris Cocktail Bar and Restaurant in Valetta, the capital of Malta, selling spaghetti, fried pork chops, fish fillets and breaded veal. There’s a report on the monetary cost of the war, staggering numbers - even in today’s terms. Britain spent £30 billion, Germany £67,500 billion, America more than £85 billion.

There are a few things from the war in Vietnam too. I saw an armour guard and tank helmet and local Rae Lelande’s uniform. She passed away in 2008.

I had a look at some dates. In 1976 the RSA presented a plaque to the Mercury Bay Club on the opening of their new club rooms. On it the inscription, “May friendship strengthen and good fellowship prevail.” I saw that it’s generally accepted that World War Two started in 1939 and ended in 1945. The Vietnam War started in 1956 and ended in 1975. I also saw that World War One started in 1914 and ended in 1918. I had a second look - and then realised this year is 100 years since the start of World War One.

I took a deep breath and went home. The RSA display hit close to home. I realised that war isn’t just a story. It’s about real people who served, and in some instances died, for all of us to enjoy the freedoms we have today. I thought about the words of local optometrist, Brett Howes’s song out the First Battle of Passchendaele in West Flanders during World War One -

So enjoy your lives and freedom, for you are truly blessed.
But remember our sacrifice, so our souls at peace can rest.
They fought, some died - I will remember them. Yes, I will remember them.

The Mercury Bay RSA has ten surviving members who served during World War Two - Alan Clague (Patron of the RSA), Mike Jacobson, Jim Greenaway, Roy Hart, Mick Williams, Bill Dunn, Harry Simpson, Alf Simpson, Val White and Derek Boardman.

The Mercury Bay RSA will hold a Dawn Service on ANZAC Day, 25 April at 6:00am at Soldiers Memorial Park, Whitianga. A Dawn Parade will assemble at the Mercury Bay Club at 5:45am.Breakfast will after the Dawn Service be served at the Mercury Bay Club at a cost of $11.00. The Mercury Bay Museum teamed up with the RSA to put up a special war display in the main room of the Mercury Bay Club for the duration of ANZAC Day.

Some of the display will be moved to the Mercury Bay Museum after ANZAC Day. Parades and Services will also be held on ANZAC Day in Tairua - at the Ex-Servicemen Cemetery at 6:00am, in Pauanui - at the Surf Club (the Sports and Recreation Club when raining) at 6:00am and the Sports and Recreation Club at 11:00am and in Matarangi - at the Volunteer Fire Brigade at 11:00am.


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