23 April 2013
0027: Veterans boarding the RNZAF Boeing 757 in Whenuapai on their way to Noumea.
Eighty-four New Zealand veterans of the War in the Pacific departed for New Caledonia today, where they will attend a commemoration to mark the 70th anniversary of New Zealand’s involvement in the War in the Pacific.
The veterans, aged between 86 and 96, will attend an Anzac Day service in Noumea on 25 April, and a commemoration to mark the 70th anniversary of New Zealand’s involvement in the War in the Pacific at the New Zealand Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in Bourail on 26 April.
The veterans departed RNZAF Base Whenuapai this morning.
Rob McLean, 92, a Lance Corporal in 14th Brigade, 3rd Army Division between 1939 and 1945 said he was going back to New Caledonia to pay respects to his friends who had not come home, and those who had died since the war.
"I’m not sure what to expect really. I just know I have to go back for myself and say goodbye."
Mr McLean said he was also enjoying meeting other veterans and talking about experiences.
William Groves, 87, was a Leading Aircraftman in No. 2 and No. 4 Servicing Units between 1943 and 1945, and said the War in the Pacific was a "forgotten war" and he hoped this trip would encourage more people to learn more about it.
"There’s a lot of focus on the War in Europe but this was close to home, very close to home and we need to remind people of that," Mr Groves said.
The veterans will return to New Zealand on 27 April 2013.
For further information please contact Katherine O’Donnell, Media Advisor – Defence Communications Group, on 021 664 293.