From those who joined up in World War ll to the relative youngsters who saw action in Vietnam, this selection of clips is collected from the fourth series of interviews with ex-servicemen sharing their memories of service. The stories of these men and women range from the comical to the horrific. Age has taken its toll on their bodies but the memories remain sharp. Made by director David Blyth (Our Oldest Soldier) and Hibiscus Coast Community RSA Museum curator Patricia Stroud, the interviews are a valuable record of WWll and conflict in South East Asia.
Keith Boles was certain he wanted to join the air force when the Second World War broke out, and it wasn’t long before he was a flying instructor. Evacuated from Singapore when the Japanese invaded, Boles eventually found himself in the United Kingdom, with an Advanced Flying Unit. A transfer to operations with Bomber Command saw him piloting de Havilland Mosquito bombers and being trained in the use of the top secret Oboe targeting system. Being part of a pathfinder unit was, he says, the safest job in Bomber Command and he came through his service unscathed.
This 1985 TVNZ documentary follows the recruitment of three new pilots into the Red Checkers acrobatic flying squadron of the Royal NZ Air Force. The pilots train to fly formations, loops and low level passes. There are close calls, and interviews with pilots and their spouses. What does it take to be a Kiwi Top Gun? Squadron leader (and future NZ Defence Force chief) Bruce Ferguson: "he's got to have confidence in himself, his abilities and to be a wee bit of a showman." The documentary marked one of the earliest directing credits for Emmy Award-winner Mike Single.
This edition of the 1976 adventure series documents a pioneering attempt to fly over Aoraki-Mount Cook by hot air balloon. RNZAF squadron leader Roly Parsons had made the first balloon crossing of Cook Strait the previous year. Director Pamela Meekings-Stewart captures his preparations to take on perilous winds and high altitudes. A first attempt with newbie co-pilot Rolf Dennler sets an altitude record, but crashes near Fox Glacier township, before Parsons pulls on his gold flight jacket for a final attempt at the challenge. Julian Dickon (Pukemanu) wrote the script.
“We’ve chosen someone Hollywood would call an action hero” says Hilary Barry, as she introduces this TV item recalling Kiwi experiences in World War I. The subject is decorated flying ace Keith Caldwell, who left for England in 1916 to join the RAF with only eight hours training (which he’d paid for himself). He became one of the most successful pilots on the Western Front, leading ‘Tiger Squadron’. The short, which screened during 3 News, recounts the dogfights and close escapes that Caldwell negotiated with “splendid skill and fearlessness”.
Like many others who signed up at the beginning of World War II, Tom Beale was looking for excitement, travel and the glamour of the uniform. Where he ended up was Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. A Leading Aircraftman (a junior rank in the air force), Beale served alongside Americans and Australians as they fought to push the last remaining Japanese soldiers off the island. Daily Japanese bombing raids added to the discomfort of fighting in the tropics. Returning home, Beale found it difficult to settle and re-enlisted, ending up in Japan as part of the occupation force.
Raymond Thompson, MNZM, has created and supervised a run of television shows since setting up base in New Zealand in the mid 90s. Longtime head of production company Cloud 9, he first began selling scripts in his native England. Thompson's series The Tribe, set in a world without adults, became a cult international hit, running for five seasons plus a sequel. His shows have sold to more than 130 countries.
Natural history and adventure cameraman Mike Single has worked everywhere from Death Valley to Antarctica, and filmed everything from BASE jumping to the birthplace of kung fu. A long association with company NHNZ has scored him a swag of awards, including an International Emmy for his Antarctic film The Crystal Ocean. Single's work has screened on Discovery Channel and National Geographic.
The late Keith Bracey's impeccable diction, dashing goatee and impish sense of humour made him a household name as presenter of Town and Around in Auckland. His interview with musician Acker Bilk (where he dressed identically) left a lasting impression on viewers. Bracey fronted the crime fighting show Police 5 from 1976 until 1986, when his familiar face and voice disappeared from television screens.
Remembered by his colleagues as “the leader in capturing New Zealand scenery on film from 1923 to 1954”, Bert Bridgman began his career as a cameraman in the days of silent film, and later directed the Centennial film One Hundred Crowded Years. He served as a war correspondent in the Pacific for the National Film Unit and was chief colour cameraman at the time of his death.