World War II veteran Everard Otto volunteered for the Territorials at 18, helping supply Americans troops based in New Zealand. But his real war story began when he turned 21 and was sent overseas. He eventually arrived in Italy as a staff car driver. Mostly behind the lines, Otto’s memory of service is based around the brutal battles for Monte Cassino, watching the cruel fighting and bombing that razed the famous hilltop monastery. Returning decades later he found the countryside largely unchanged. He even found the dugout where he spent four eventful months.
“You forget about the rough times” says old soldier Steve Danes. Instead, the veteran of the Italian Campaign during World War ll focuses on the funny side. There are plenty of tales of the laughter and hijinks to be had when resting behind the lines, or on leave. Conscripted at age 18 and sent to Europe just short of his 21st birthday, Danes spent most of his war in Italy and there wasn’t much of the country he didn’t see. Along the way he encountered fanatical young Nazis, and older German soldiers who were sick of war and wanted it to end.
Colin Ramsey was rejected on medical grounds when he volunteered for World War ll, but not long after, he was called up and soon found himself training at Papakura Military Camp. An ambulance driver in the 3rd New Zealand Division, the first part of Colin’s war was in the Pacific. The realities of the conflict hit home while serving in the Solomons. He and his comrades were sent to collect the American casualties of a Japanese bombing raid, a grizzly experience. At 93, Colin’s memory is sharp as he vividly recalls his experiences.
Reg Dunbar’s war was mostly fought in the skies above Europe and North Africa. His first bombing raids over Germany were as an RAF tail gunner in a Vickers Wellington plane - a cold and lonely job he says. For the rest of that tour he was in the wireless operator’s seat, the job he’d trained for. In North Africa the squadron supported the Eighth Army, the famous Desert Rats. Reg also took part in the first thousand bomber raid over Cologne. Later he worked on the secret 'Moonshine' radar, which fooled the Germans into thinking a bomber formation was on the way.
Harold Beven reckons he’s the luckiest man to serve in the Second World War. Born in a village east of London, he saw plenty of action in the (UK) Royal Navy, but by his own admission, never got his feet wet. Joining up as soon as possible after the outbreak of war, Beven served in almost all the naval theatres. As a Chief Petty Officer, he was involved in the evacuations of Greece and Crete — and later the allied invasions of Sicily and Italy — as well as the D-Day invasion of France. At the age of 96, Beven remembers entire conversations as if it was yesterday.
This compilation episode culls stories from nine new Memories of Service interviews. From Crete to Monte Cassino, the war in the Pacific to the Korean War, former servicemen and women tell their tales in fascinating detail. Divided into broad sections ('Enlisting', 'Battles', 'Occupation of Japan'), there are stories of training, narrow escapes, attack from the air, and sad goodbyes. Director David Blyth and Silverdale RSA museum curator Patricia Stroud’s series of interviews are a valuable archive of a period rapidly fading from memory.
From North Atlantic convoy protection to the invasions of Sicily and the Italian mainland, Joseph Pedersen was there. His entire naval career was spent as a sonar operator on two destroyers, HMS Walker and HMS Lookout. The latter was the only destroyer of eight in its class to survive WWll. Harrowing stories of sinkings, dive bombings and helping in the recovery of bodies from a bombed London school, are balanced by the strange coincidences and humour of war. Aged 90 when interviewed, Pedersen's recall of long ago events is outstanding. Pedersen passed away on 29 March 2017.
Clarke Gayford spends a day with the All Blacks' star first five-eighth. A thoroughly modern rugby player, Dan Carter talks about his underwear commercials and is seen in his Italian clothing store and being made up with fake sweat for a photo shoot. The flip side is an unwavering commitment to his craft, and a training and fitness regime that leaves Gayford gasping. Carter recalls his father building him goalposts in the backyard when he was a boy — and demonstrates the goal kicking technique that has made him the All Blacks’ leading points scorer.
For three decades, playwright and critic Bruce Mason played intelligent, impassioned witness to many key developments in Kiwi theatre and culture; a number of them his own. His play The Pohutukawa Tree has spawned more than 180 productions, and was watched by 20 million after being adapted for the BBC. The End of the Golden Weather is both a classic solo play, and movie.
Paolo Rotondo was born in Italy and has lived there and in New Zealand. In 1997 Rotondo starred in local feature The Ugly winning praise from Variety and The Times, and awards at Rome's Fantastic Film Festival. Following TV appearances in Street Legal and Jackson’s Wharf, he went on to star in urban underbelly feature Stickmen, before writing and directing short film The Freezer. Rotondo returned to the small screen as Dr Andrew Solomon in Kiwi soap Shortland Street, and also appeared as Tim in The Insiders Guide to Happiness. His work as director and writer of Dead Letters won him Best Short Screenplay at the 2006 NZ Screen Awards.