Sunday, November 9, 2014

FAREWELL TO A SOLDIER

Hawea (Gov to all of us that knew him) Grey passed away unexpectedly at New Plymouth a few days ago.    He was a legend among the Malaysia/Borneo/Vietnam veteran community.    I first got to know Gov when we served together in Uncle Po's Battalion, part of 28 Commonweath Infantry Brigade Group, at Terendak in Malaysia.  

Gov came to the Battalion from the Engineers so it was perhaps natural that he was posted to the Assault Pioneer Platoon.    He had an affinity for water and was an innovative exponent of non traditional fishing methods (read that as you will but in the knowledge that Engineers and explosives go hand in hand).    The reality was Gov become an earnest devotee of the 'Big Bang' theory and applied a simple formula never found in any training manual.   In all cases he calculated carefully the amount of explosive required to carry out a demolition and then doubled it achieving some quite spectacular results.    It is a truism that those who served with Gov are more likely than not to be in receipt of a War Disablement Pension by dint of hearing loss.

Gov's time in Malaysia will be remembered for his penchant for BIG cars (although why he needed two is debatable) and his brushes with the Garrison Military Police (mostly Redcaps) through his complete inability to drive them at any speed approaching normal.     He was also a talented guitar player ... chances were if you heard 'Ten Guitars' there was Gov in all his glory holding forth with a beer in one hand, a local (female) in the other and a guitar somewhere in the middle.    But the reality is that he was equally at home at a black tie formal dinner or a meal shared at Kampong or longhouse in Borneo.

Gov was a fierce champion of Maori culture and identity but always in a way that would reach out to Pakeha.     He was at his best recounting Maori myth, lore and legend, particularly that of Tongario, Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Mt Taranaki.     He was, for many years, the Maori Vice President on the Board of the RNZRSA and only stood down less than a month ago.     Above all, his quiet manner belayed a fierce determination to stand up for the things he believed strongly in.

Gov Grey was a soldier; a talented soldier.   He was representative of the best among soldiers,   I will remember him with affection.    Haere atu ra e Hoahoia.   Haere, Haere, Haere atu ra.



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