We said good bye to Harry Honnor on a magic BoI day at Paihia yesterday. The service was held at the beautiful old stone St Paul's Anglican Church on Marsden Road just across from the beach. He was farewelled with full military honours which brought Paihia to a standstill and something different to the many hundreds of tourists who witnessed the event.
Brigadier Harry Bowen Honnor will be remembered with affection by generations who served in the 1940's, 50's, 60's and 70's as a soldiers soldier, a tough but much respected commander and an icon of the Paihia community where he made his home following his retirement in 1983.
Harry was born in New Plymouth in 1927 and enlisted in the regular army in 1946 as a Staff Cadet at the Royal Military College Duntroon and was commissioned into the Royal New Zealand Artillery in 1949. He first saw action in Korea as a member of K Force and played a crucial part in the Battle of Kapyong as a Air Forward Observer flying over the battlefield directing the fire of 16 Field Regiment to on top of the advancing Chinese which helped save the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, from being overrun. 15 years later he was the Commander of 161 Battery in Vietnam at the Battle of Long Tan where, in a repeat of history, the guns helped prevent D Coy of the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment from being wiped out by the Viet Cong 275 Regiment, reinforced by a North Vietnamese battalion and D445 Provincial Mobile Battalion. He was one of only three New Zealanders to participate in both these battles.
Harry, by any measure, had a distinguished military career. He attended the British Army Staff College, the Joint Services Staff College in the UK. was the NZL Instructor at the Australian Joint Services Staff College, headed our Defence Liaison Staff at our Embassy in Washington DC, commanded 1 Infantry Brigade and ended up as Deputy Chief of Defence Staff in Wellington.
Harry was decorated as a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO) for personal services to the Queen during her 1963 NZL tour and was made a Commander of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1982 New Years Honours List.
He was, for many years, Patron of both the K Force Association and the Ex-Vietnam Services Association. In that latter capacity he worked assiduously behind the scenes to improve the lot of Vietnam veterans.