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.
In his matter-of-fact way, James Murray reflects on some of the horrors of the War in the Pacific. Joining the New Zealand Navy at 17, Murray found himself aboard an American destroyer, watching the first atomic bomb explode above Hiroshima. “We thought they’d blown up Japan,” he says. Earlier, aboard HMNZS Gambia, he’d watched Japanese kamikaze planes attempting to sink the aircraft carriers his ship was trying to protect. Later he was among the first to land on the Japanese mainland, helping take control of the Yokosuka Naval Base.
Since debuting in 1986, Praise Be has become a Sunday morning perennial. In this extended 1993 Christmas special, original Praise Be presenter Graeme Thomson travels far and wide in search of heavenly vocals: including big city cathedrals, schools, among singing sailors at Devonport Naval Base, and to a disused Canterbury flour mill, where the local farming community pack in for 'Away in a Manger'. A number of TV personalities (Judy Bailey, Phillip Leishman) also make appearances, to talk about Christmas and read from the bible.
This episode of TV2’s 1980 weekly after school show features performances by resident band Kairo (covering the Doobie Brothers) and the Montgomery Sisters. In the field, Tracy Barr joins naval frigate HMNZS Waikato as it sails from Devonport Naval Base, under the Auckland Harbour Bridge and up the Waitemata Harbour to collect ammunition at Point Kauri, and then heads out to sea for gunnery practice. On board, Tracy chats to the captain, a chef and a laundryman (who irons 150 shirts every day) — the results of the exercise seem to be a military secret.
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.
Kevin Smith was the multi-talented actor who appeared in a host of television shows, starting with eighties soap Gloss. He also starred in three tele-movies as maverick private investigator John Lawless. His feature films include period melodrama Desperate Remedies, and offbeat drama Channelling Baby.
Between getting his start in filmmaking with the National Film Unit, and returning to New Zealand to retire, John Feeney made his name as a director at the National Film Board of Canada; he also spent 40 years filming and photographing in Egypt. Some of his NFU films were considered to be outstanding documentaries, and two of his Canadian films were nominated for Academy Awards.
Kiwi-born Samoan Nathaniel Lees began acting on stage in 1975, and on screen in 1984. Since then he has become a leading force in the development of Pacific Island theatre in Aotearoa, and brought his distinctive baritone voice to everything from The Billy T James Show to The Matrix.
Hugh Macdonald began his long, award-studded career at the National Film Unit, where at 25 he directed ambitious three-screen spectacular This is New Zealand (1970), which was seen by 400,000 New Zealanders. In the 80s he produced Oscar-nominated short The Frog, the Dog, and the Devil and established his own company, continuing a busy diet of commercial films, train documentaries and animation.
After managing to introduce drama and dance into his post WWII films for the National Film Unit, filmmaker Michael Forlong spent the remainder of his career directing features in Europe. In 1972 he returned to New Zealand to shoot children's tale Rangi's Catch, discovering actor Temuera Morrison in the process.