I returned home very late last night to the news of the death of Lieutenant Colonel John Masters, ONZM, MC, JP. I cried and cried some more.
One of the greatest honours ever paid me was to have him describe me in his book 'A Bridge Over' as his friend. He was much more than that. For many of us he was a living legend; a humble man who lived to serve and in doing so inspired so many. There was no better choice when last year he was the inaugural recipient of the 'ANZAC of the Year Award'.
I first met John when I was a young soldier in Bob Gurr's Battalion back in 1963. He was the 2ic of the Company I was posted to. A short time later I went to Australia for officer training and although our Army is very small our paths didn't really cross until after we had both left the service when he and I teamed up to fight Government over the Agent Orange issue.
That was when I really got to know John. He was masterful in knowing just how far to push and when it was time to pull back a tad. When he and I designed what became known as 'The Open Letter' it was through his wise counsel that we crafted a document that lived to underpin the Memorandum of Understanding negotiated between Government, the Royal New Zealand Returned & Services Association and the Ex-Vietnam Services Association.
Early this year I was involved in the filming of the TV documentary 'A Bridge Over' which covered the life and times of John Masters. As part of that we flew the Ghurka soldier whose life he saved in Borneo out from Nepal for a hugely emotional reunion. But all through the filming John wanted to talk, not about himself but of the soldiers he was privileged to command. That was/is the measure of the man.
To Alisoun and the children my thoughts and prayers. I will try to make it to Christchurch for the funeral but my Massey job may prevent that. But whatever, I will be there in spirit and will share a few more tears for a great friend and greater New Zealander.