Were you on Blackpool in 1969?

This is an email which was received regarding HMNZS Blackpool and her service on the Far East Station in 1969. The author Ken, was an RO2(G) and serving in HMS Ajax (F114), which was Captain D, 2nd Destroyer Squadron Far East Fleet. The attached photo is the only one that I still have of me during my RN service. The attached is a photo of Ajax taken off the coast of Northern Ireland during the summer of 1970.

We accompanied Blackpool to Bangkok and were moored alongside each other on the Bangkok River. The photo was taken on our flight deck, just before we and some of the Blackpool ships company acted as ‘pirates’ hosting children from a local orphanage. I wonder if any of your members remember this event?

I have fond memories of our visit to Bangkok and subsequent call into HMS Tamar, Hong Kong. I can recall some memorable runs ashore with guys off the Blackpool and the friendship and openness of ‘Kiwi’s’.

I also have vivid memories of the collision between HMAS Melbourne and USS Frank E Evans. We were in company with HMS London making our way to join exercise Sea Spirit. I was on duty in the MCO when a ‘flash’ signal came in advising us of the collision and to make best speed to arrive off the Philippines. I can remember seeing the stern of the Evans, HMS Charybdis and other ships and helicopters involved in the rescue. We had no part in these events and were sent on our way to Subic Bay. The following day, as we were leaving Subic, I was on the flag deck when we passed the stern section of the Evans being towed into the base.

My RN service ended in May 1971 when I transferred into the Royal Air Force, initially as a Telegraphist and then as an RAF Regiment Gunner. I must have liked service life, as I retired in Feb 2005, having joined as a boy at HMS Ganges in October 1966.

I wish you and your members well, and hopefully, you’ll share this brief snapshot of times with the Far East Fleet in 1969.  Regards  Ken Hiscocks email ken.rockape4241@yahoo.co.uk

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John Vernon Dallow – Crosses the Bar

Regret to advise that our shipmate and Communicator John Vernon Dallow crossed the bar 17 April 2019.  Dickie, as he was fondly known, joined the RNZN on 13 March 1947 as a Boy.  He left the Navy 21 September 1955 as a Leading Signalman.  Dickie served in TAMAKI, BELLONA, PHILOMEL, HAWEA, TAUPO, CERBERUS, ROTOITI, NAVY OFFICE WELLINGTON, and BLACK PRINCE.  A celebration of John’s life will be held at Morrison Funerals 220 Universal Drive Henderson at 3pm Friday 26 April followed by a private cremation.

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Dept Veterans Affairs – Media Release ‘Budget puts veterans and their families first’

The Hon Darren Chester MP
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
Back to media releases

3 April 2019
Budget puts veterans and their families first
Australian veterans and their families will continue to see an improvement in support and services with $11.5 billion in funding allocated in the 2019–20 Budget.

This funding represents an overall increase of $300 million allocated to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) in 2019–20 compared with 2018–19 to support our veterans and their families.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said the 2019–20 Budget was focussed on putting veterans and their families first and would see continued investment in the transformation of DVA.

“Over the next two years DVA will continue its focus on making it easier and faster for veterans to access the services they need, when and where they need them,” Mr Chester said.

“Veterans and their families will be able to access more services online and we will continue to simplify our phone system, introducing a single contact phone number, 1800 VETERAN.

“We are making sure that every veteran, no matter where they live have better access to DVA by partnering with Department of Human Services to use their extensive network of shop fronts and centres, as well as Mobile Service Centres and agent networks.

“We will also be investing more to make DVA’s online claims site, MyService, more user-friendly, making the claims process easier and faster.

“As the rising cost of living continues to put pressure on a lot of Australians, we have also announced a one-off Energy Assistance Payment that will provide additional support for more than 225,000 veterans and widows who receive support payments. The payment is worth $75 for singles and $125 for couples.

“We are continuing to deliver an extensive respect and recognition package with a veterans’ covenant, nationally recognised veterans’ card, lapel pin and commemorative program of national and international events.”

The Australian Government’s commitment to supporting veterans will strengthen with $24.4 million in funding over four years for a range of programs including:

$16.2 million in funding to support grants to organisations who support veterans to deliver innovative programs to support veterans to find meaningful employment
$4.2 million to extend the trial of the Provisional Access to Medical Treatment which will continue to provide veterans with access to treatment for specified conditions before claims are approved, getting veterans treatment faster and preventing the risk of further deterioration of their condition
$4.0 million to provide training to volunteers who work with veterans enhancing their capability to recognise mental health risks and to provide intervention and support.
“Helping veterans effectively transition to civilian life is a priority for the government,” Mr Chester said.

“We know that employing a veteran is good for business and the experience and skills they bring to a job can be invaluable.

“These grants will help veterans find employment by helping them navigate the range of community and government services available to them.”

Family violence victims who are former spouses or de-facto partners of veterans will also see an increase in support, with $6.2 million in funding allocated in the Budget.

“Funding for the Partner Service Pensions — eligibility alignment measure will ensure former spouses and de-facto partners will be able to continue receiving the partner service pension after their relationship has ended and divorce proceedings finalised, including where it is determined that special domestic circumstances apply,” Mr Chester said.

“This measure is about creating equity for all former partners of veterans, regardless of their marital status.”

Last year the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade completed its inquiry into the use of Quinoline anti-malarial drugs Mefloquine and Tafenoquine in the Australian Defence Force.

“We recognise that this is an ongoing concern for some veterans and the Australian Government is providing $2.1 million so that any concerned veterans can have a comprehensive health check by a general practitioner to identify service-related illness, disease and injury,” Mr Chester said.

The 2019–20 Budget also provides:

$3.5 million in funding to support the 2020 Anzac Day Dawn Service in France as well as for managing security and attendance in both France and Turkey consistent with previous overseas commemorations. The funding includes funds for a scoping study for a commemorative site on the Island of Lemnos, Greece, the former site of an Australian field hospital during the First World War.
New and amended listings on the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
More information on all of DVA’s 2019–20 Budget measures is available on the DVA website.


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Jack Passings – April 2019

The following Sailors ‘Crossed the Bar’ during the month of April 2019. Details of funerals etc can be found by clicking HERE.

FENTON, John Barry PTI
PENNEY Geoffrey Arnold Seaman
CUNNINGHAM Paul Thomas Seaman

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War Graves left to Degrade in New Zealand

Thanks to Laine Moger and Chris McKeen – Stuff

Click HERE to view video

Members of the NZ Remembrance Army – a volunteer movement based on a Facebook group – visited the Tolaga Bay services cemetery to refurb and clean the grave markers and headstones of veterans buried in the East Coast cemetery.

White paint hisses softly beneath the blades scraping gravestone faces in Gisborne’s Tolaga Bay cemetery.

Pausing between names, ex-serviceman Simon Strombom watches other volunteers tend to each granite plaque in turn.

The group has a saying: Every man dies twice, once physically and then again when a person speaks his name for the last time.

They’ve travelled hundreds of kilometres to stop that from happening, to right what Strombom describes as “our national shame”.

Veterans’ Affairs spends $1.5 million maintaining war graves every year.

Despite this, unreadable names are being lost behind layers of moss and lichen, taking a part of New Zealand’s history with them, as they decay in unkempt cemeteries across the country.

To Strombom, a former army major, preserving the names of fallen servicemen and women is the deepest honour and he has shouldered the responsibility to clean each and every single grave.

But he says his efforts are being stalled by unreasonable bureaucratic standards and people with commercial interests.

“Our history is decaying and being lost right in front of our eyes. We say every Anzac Day: ‘In the going down of the sun, we will remember them’, and we are not,” he says.

Vietnam veteran Bob Derwin drove to Tolaga Bay from Auckland, to scrub the headstone of his fellow soldier, Driver KC Cross who died in a traffic accident months after they had returned from their tour of duty in Vietnam.
There are two types of ‘war graves’ in New Zealand. ‘True’ war graves specifically commemorate soldiers from the first and second world wars. These graves are managed by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage on behalf of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Veterans’ Affairs, a unit of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is responsible for the 183 service cemeteries in New Zealand. The war graves in these cemeteries are for all people who have served in any military capacity.

This includes overseas conflicts such as Vietnam, Iraq and Timor, but it also includes veterans who have died on home soil.

Despite the $1.5m assigned to maintain the country’s service cemeteries, cleaning the graves continues to remain the responsibility of family members.

Former army major Simon Strombom has rallied a volunteer army called the NZ Remembrance Army to clean war graves.

The New Zealand Remembrance Army, led by Strombom, is a gang of volunteers eager to help the nationwide quest. The Remembrance Army says Veterans’ Affairs and other authorities have created a lot of barriers when it comes to cleaning graves.

Members must adhere to the strictest of standards: “A standard the people who are being paid to do the job aren’t upholding,” Strombom says.

For one, they are not allowed to clean dirty graves without first gaining family permission.

This is confusing to Strombom who argues it is hard to get the family name off a grave you cannot see or read, almost as difficult as it is to find a family who has died or moved from the area.

The alternative is to leave the graves to decay. That just doesn’t seem logical to Strombom.

Tolaga Bay cemetery is one of the 183 service cemeteries Veteran’s Affairs pays to maintain, and which has fallen into disrepair. Up until 2015, Veterans’ Affairs employed a ‘supervisor of service cemeteries’, a full-time role dedicated to the upkeep and management of all cemeteries.

Stuff understands the role required the employee to spend three months a year driving the length and breadth of the country to ensure cemeteries were up to standard.

But the position was disestablished and a subcontractor was procured to do the same role: Bronze Plaques NZ, run by Chris Fraser.

Bronze Plaques NZ was paid several hundred thousand dollars for armed service graveyard maintenance last year. The contract is for 2015 to 2021, with an option to extend for two years.

Fraser did not respond to Stuff’s attempts to contact him regarding questions raised by the New Zealand Remembrance Army. Instead, he passed the request to Veterans’ Affairs, to speak on his behalf.

Veterans’ Affairs deputy head, Marti Eller, says it is happy with the work Bronze Plaques NZ is delivering.

“We note that many of the graves of service people that are in a poor state are not located in services cemeteries, but instead in public and private cemeteries.

“We appreciate the work that volunteers, including the Remembrance Army, do to help clean and care for these graves, and we look forward to continuing to work with them.”

After cleaning, graves are painted with white enamel paint. Drying times depend on the day, anywhere from half an hour to four hours.
Tolaga Bay service cemetery is one of the 183 cemeteries managed and paid for by Veterans’ Affairs.

A fortnight before Anzac Day, members of the New Zealand Remembrance Army gathered to restore and repair the graves at the request of ex-Army padre and local kaumatua Captain William Gray (retired).

One man had travelled seven hours to tend to the grave of his friend, Kevin Cross, whom he served with in Vietnam. Months after the pair had returned safely after their tour of duty in Vietnam, Cross died in a car crash.

For veteran Bob Derwin, cleaning the graves is personal. But to first-timers, the feeling of scrubbing the paint to reveal a freshly revitalised name is a special experience.

Ex-Army padre and local kaumatua Captain William Gray (retired), wants the graves at Tolaga Bay ready for Anzac Day.
Graves are scrubbed or water blasted before being sprayed with a specialist cleaning product. Next, they are wiped down and then painted with white enamel, until it dries. Drying times depend on the day and can be anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours.

Flat-edged paint scrapers are then dragged across the granite faces, leaving only what’s left in the recess areas carved into the gravestone face.

The final part of the process is to take a white cuttlefish bone to buff any remaining flecks of paint that avoided the scraping process.

An expert who works for the NZDF is impressed: “The homework has been done.”

Overall, the caring for war graves is unusually complex because of how many different layers and organisations are involved.

Alongside Bronze Plaques NZ, specialist subcontractors Cemeteries and Crematoria Collective and the New Zealand Master Monumental Masons Association separately manage both headstone/plaque replacements.

Local councils maintain general upkeep, as do some Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association (RSA).

Strongbom says he has unearthed a gap between all these individual agencies and believes there are no shared standards for cleaning plaques and headstones in services cemeteries.

NZDF disputes this, stating that a Standard of Care agreement exists for nearly all services cemeteries.

During the course of Stuff’s investigation, attitudes towards the NZ Remembrance Army have varied: from outright attempts to thwart cleaning parties, to more welcoming, albeit still bureaucratic, hoops to jump through.

All parties are hoping for a more cohesive approach to maintaining the graves, and have discussed a future direction at two recent meetings.

The meetings included the New Zealand Remembrance Army, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association, the Cemeteries and Crematoria Collective, and the New Zealand Master Monumental Masons Association.

“These meetings aimed to encourage a coordinated approach, ensure all health and safety requirements are met, everyone understands the complexities involved,” a Veterans’ Affairs spokesperson says.

Bronze Plaques NZ was not at the meetings.

Most agencies are praising the works of Strombom and his team, who are still doing the work for free.

New Zealand Remembrance Army, lead by Strombom, is a gang of volunteers happy to help the nationwide quest to clean all war graves.
In Tolaga Bay, long after the rain clouds have closed in, members of the Remembrance Army finish up the last of the gravestones.

Some left early to avoid the weather but most stayed to the end.

When they arrived, the lichen-stained gravestones were dark and unreadable. As they leave, the name, rank and serial number of servicemen and women beam brightly, each readable from 15 metres away.

To New Zealand Remembrance Army members, it feels like bringing someone back to life.


Veterans’ Affairs paid $1,503,000 towards the upkeep of 183 service cemeteries across New Zealand in the 2017/18 financial year.

The total includes $392,000 for repair and development work to subcontractors, one being Bronze Plaques NZ.

Bronze Plaques NZ was also paid $30,000 for inspections of cemeteries and received a share of Veterans’ Affairs $761,000 given to contractors for plaques and headstones, for the same time period.

An annual grant of up to $320,000 was paid to six local authorities.

These are mostly councils, although six services cemeteries are managed by local Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Associations, five by cemetery boards, and one by the NZDF.

The amount is a contribution and is based on cemetery size.

Despite the $1,503,000 assigned to maintain service cemeteries, cleaning the graves, in these and other cemeteries, has always and continues to remain the responsibility of family members of those who are buried there.
While the grant covers maintenance costs, like lawn mowing and other minor maintenance, it does not cover cleaning plaques.

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MAA Robert William Cunningham

I have received a query from MAA Cunningham’s son, Ray Cunningham who is interested in talking with anyone who knew his father.  If you are happy to spin a dit or two with his son can you please contact him on 0061 417 976 341  or
email ray.cunningham@kerman.com.au

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New Zealand Navy’s biggest vessel ready for launch in South Korea

HMNZS Aotearoa

Photo: Royal New Zealand Navy

The Aotearoa, the biggest ever vessel to be built for the Royal New Zealand Navy is taking shape and is ready for launch in South Korea.

Aotearoa is being constructed at Hyundai Heavy Shipbuilding’s Ulsan shipyard and is scheduled to be launched within the next two weeks, according to the New Zealand Navy.

The launch will take place some nine months after the tanker’s keel was laid in August 2018.

Aotearoa represents the first of a new fleet of RNZN ships built specifically to address the global requirements of the New Zealand Defence Force and government agencies for deployment from Antarctica to the Arabian Gulf.

Aotearoa is designed to provide logistical support to New Zealand and coalition maritime, land and air units.

Her primary purpose is to conduct fuel resupply but she will also be capable of supplying dry goods, water, spare parts or ammunition. Her missions will include humanitarian and disaster relief, support to United Nations security operations, support to a coalition naval task group and Antarctic resupply.

Featuring a wave-piercing hull form, the 173.2-meter-long ship will have the ability to carry twelve 20-foot shipping containers, high-capacity freshwater generation plants, self-defence systems, aviation and marine fuel cargo tanks, dual all-electric replenishment-at-sea rigs and will be able to carry a Seaspite or NH90 helicopter.

Aotearoa will displace 26,000 tonnes and will be operated by a crew of 64.

The ship’s $493 million price tag includes the tanker’s enhanced “winterization” capabilities, such as ice-strengthening for operations in Antarctica, including resupplying McMurdo Station and Scott Base. Her predecessor HMNZS Endeavour was not Antarctic-capable.


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