21 September, 2022
He was one of 24 New Zealand Defence Force sailors, soldiers and aviators alongside Australian and Canadian personnel in the Commonwealth contingent, marching from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch on Monday morning in London.
Watching Her Majesty The Late Queen Elizabeth II's coffin being taken from the gun carriage to the Royal hearse and driven away was a ‘’goosebump’ moment for Warrant Officer Bentley.
“You knew it was the final thing and the last time I would ever see her.”
The NZDF contingent arrived last Monday and spent the week training at Pirbright Army Camp in Surrey, practising their march. In the early hours of Thursday morning (UK time) they were part of a full dress rehearsal with UK Armed Forces on the Mall in London.
A highlight of the week was the Prince and Princess of Wales’ visit to Pirbright on Friday, to thank the Commonwealth contingents for coming this far. The New Zealand contingent returned the thanks by performing the Defence Force haka.
Warrant Officer Bentley is from Blenheim and is currently posted to RNZAF Base Auckland as the Command Warrant Officer. He joined the Air Force in 1990 after leaving Marlborough Boys College. His father came home with a brochure and he thought the idea of airplanes and helicopters sounded pretty cool.
“Thirty-two years later, here I am.”
As a Logistics and Supply specialist, he has been utilised widely, notably to East Timor and the New Zealand Defence Force’s support to the Antarctic programme. He was on the first Boeing 757 flight to land on the ice near McMurdo Base and has been an instructor for years.
“My parents were well-known school teachers and my sister teaches at Marlborough Girls’ College. So I haven’t quite discarded the family gene.”
But he has never been to England before, despite having strong heritage with grandparents on both sides coming from Scotland and England.
As a Warrant Officer, getting back into marching drill was definitely a case of blowing off the cobwebs.
“It’s been good to get a refresh from the younger ones,” he says. “It’s been great watching them and seeing how they are experiencing this.
“I’ve been very proud to be part of something that is much bigger than me. This is part of history, walking down there. It’s something I can tell the grandchildren.
“And meeting with people from other countries, and networking with them, is how you make international relationships.”