After Action Report
V Company 2014. The Mercure Hotel, Auckland CBD.
Seventy people enjoyed the casual meet and greet morning tea on the first Saturday morning. Muffins and savouries mingled with laughter and kisses. Some guests had met unofficially in the Hotel the night before – and their renewed comradeship was enhanced with the embraces of the new arrivals.
“Omigod Banda! Is that really you?”
Sally Cole and Topsy Turvey reliving the cackling laughter of Splitty Cole…
What a pleasure to witness the reuniting of special friends.
Thirty-three V Company survivors, their ladies, children and widows all lunched at the aptly named “Vue” restaurant on the top of the Hotel, overlooking the magnificent Auckland Harbour.
Check-ins complete, we all made our way to the Conference rooms on the first floor where we were entertained, informed and moved by guest speakers, comrades and audio-visuals that relived the moods and music of 1967 in Phouc Tuy province, South Vietnam. Many an old black & white photograph saw its first light of day; many an old eye, male and female, glinted wetly in the lowered lights.
Special men, reliving special times. The very definition of “Reunion”.
And so on with the evening – flowing gowns and tight jackets with sparkling medals…many of which shone proudly on the “other” side of the chest as smiling relatives shared centre stage with buoyant veterans. The aged ports were only outdone by the eloquent toasts and impromptu speeches.
Then Marriedies to bed to rest and fight another day…and Singlies to the bar …and beyond…to regret the next day!
But no-one was lost for all made the bus departure at 0900 on Sunday. A quiet, scenic trip in a double decker that meandered through a quiet city, up through Parnell and into the sunlit grounds of the appropriate War Memorial Museum.
In a service attended by nearly all of us, in the hallowed Hall of Memories, surrounded on all sides by the names of our glorious dead, we paid our respects to those that sacrificed their youthful bodies in defence of their country in times of war.
And how fitting that our own Mrs Jeanette Hasell-Back laid our wreath on the cenotaph while echoes of “Whakeria Mai” and the Last Post wafted around the chamber.
Then the chilling and moving reading of our Victor Company Roll of Honour – all 66 dead – names read by six of our senior warriors, to the whispering music of “Band of brothers”.
By the time the poppies were laid out in front of our Vietnam Dead and the group photos taken on the steps, all were ready once again to face the wonderful sunshine and the warmest of welcomes at the Parnell RSA. And what better than an open free bar and a scrumptious lunch served in mess tins to finish off a memorable (in every sense of the word) day.
Farewells back at the Mercure Hotel were bitter-sweet, but with an underlying satisfaction of duties done well, comrades honoured and loved ones moved a little closer into the group bosom of Victor Company 1967.
Will we do it again?
Time – and the reaper will tell.
Stand Down V Company. Rest.