Skip to main content

West Coast prospector at the Eric Batchelor Cup reflects on golden career with Army Reserve Force

At a weekend sports tournament in Waimate to honour local war hero Eric Batchelor, Westport’s Sergeant Gordon Storer said the best of the New Zealand Defence Force values were on display.

06 March, 2024

The New Zealand Army Reserve Force soldier joined his fellow 2nd/4th Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment members for touch rugby, netball, volleyball and tug of war.

“Courage, commitment, comradeship and integrity were all prevalent on the day,” he said. “When you are out playing sports, everyone is on an equal playing field.”

Waimate is the birthplace of the tournament’s namesake, decorated soldier Eric Batchelor, who received the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Bar for his efforts and bravery in Italy during the Second World War. He died in 2010.

Sergeant Storer has spent more than three decades with the Army Reserve Force and met Mr Batchelor during a training exercise in 2007. He said it was great to be able to honour the Waimate man over the weekend.

“He was a really nice guy, a proper country man.”

Batchelor’s widow Thurza attended the tournament and visited his grave on Sunday. It made the weekend that much more special for Sergeant Storer and his fellow reservists. 

“Thurza thanked everyone for coming to Waimate and continuing to remember his legacy,” he said.

Being able to give back to New Zealand in times of need is a great return on all the training I have received over the years.

Sergeant Gordon Storer

Photo 2 4

Sergeant Storer comes from a very diverse career background having worked in dairy farming, coal mining and sales.

He’s now a part-time gold miner in Westport, and said his 30 years in the armed forces had equipped him with the necessary skills to tackle any role.

As a Reservist he said he gets the best of both worlds, balancing his duties as a soldier with his West Coast lifestyle.

“When I was running a dairy farm I employed about 10 people. Without the Army teaching me about leadership and project management, I wouldn’t have been able to do that job.”

He’s lived on the West Coast since he was a teenager and considers the place home.

Sergeant Storer said he’s proud to be contributing to his community on the Coast.

“Being able to give back to New Zealand in times of need is a great return on all the training I have received over the years.”

Sergeant Storer has responded to many natural disasters and events alongside fellow Army Reserve Force personnel including the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, the 2019 Nelson fires and the severe flooding in Westport in 2021.

“With the floods, I was in uniform and on the ground in less than an hour, ready to help,” he said.

“It is always a surreal experience, and it’s really rewarding work.

“At the same time, it is a privilege to be asked and selected to support.”

Before signing up with the Reserves, Sergeant Storer spent three years with the NZ Army Cadets where he had the opportunity to spend the weekend with the local reserves, which sparked his interest in signing up.

“Being a West Coaster, I was right into hunting, fishing, you name it, so it was kind of natural to me.”

As a younger recruit he said learning how to handle and fire weapons was an exciting prospect, but what motivated him these days is seeing others come through.

“For me now it is about the next generation, passing on as much of my knowledge as possible.

“I get a great sense of satisfaction in developing people and seeing these young new soldiers become adults, leaders and just well-rounded good people.

“The NZ Army teaches you self-confidence, leadership and project management skills and provides you with life experiences and a heap of good mates along the way.”

Sergeant Storer said he’s been lucky to travel with the Reserve Force to some memorable places both here and overseas over the years.

He was selected for deployment to East Timor, and as he hadn’t travelled much farther than Australia previously, he jumped at opportunity.

Apart from the humidity, he said the jungles of East Timor were similar to life on the West Coast.

Any Defence Recruiting enquiries can be directed to 0800 1 FORCE. Each Reserve Force company has its own training programme in line with its battalion’s training focus.

Platoon-level training takes place one night a week and company-level training typically one weekend a month.