Salute to the fallen

Last updated 13:49 22/04/2008
JASON OXENHAM/Central Leader
HONOURING ANZACS: From left, Auckland Grammar School prefects Kieran Pilkington and Mark Turner, and old boys Ron Mayhill and Bryce Rope will lay wreaths at the school cenotaph on Anzac Day this Friday.

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Memories of war will be in the minds of two veterans as they lay a wreath in honour of the Anzacs at Auckland Grammar School on Friday.

Bryce Rope of Greenlane and Ron Mayhill of Kohimaramara both started at Auckland Grammar as third formers in 1937 and joined the air force straight out of school.

"I went from short pants into a blue uniform," says Mr Rope.

They will lay the wreath at the school cenotaph alongside prefects Mark Turner and Kieran Pilkington.

The men were only 19 when they saw active service in Europe during World War Two, Mr Rope flying fighter bombers and Mr Mayhill as a bomb aimer and observer.

They trained in Canada before heading to Britain, but Mr Rope was held back for a year to be a flight instructor.

He believes the extra experience and a year without action saved his life.

Mr Mayhill was already in service by that time, dropping bombs from Lancaster airplanes.

"The first big thrill was seeing blacked out Britain and getting close to the war," he says.

"The oldest of our crew was 20 and the rest of us were 19. It was awesome and exciting and a huge adventure but it got serious later on.

"If we’d been a bit older, we would have thought more but we were doing our job. I can still remember a lot of it, it’s just vivid," says Mr Mayhill.

He can still picture the eerie yellow light from fighter flares in the night sky as he dropped bombs over Germany.

Mr Rope also has strong memories of seeing parts of Britain flattened by bombing.

"All around St Paul’s Cathedral was flattened but it was still standing there supreme. A bomb fell through the dome but didn’t go off."

Injury ended Mr Mayhill’s tour of duty when the front of a plane he was in exploded.

"I still have perspex in my eyes," he says.

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service and came back to New Zealand to teach at Auckland Grammar for 30 years.

Mr Rope was lucky enough to escape injury and also returned home, where he had long involvement with the All Blacks, including coaching them in 1983 and
1984.

The two men are honoured to lay the wreath in memory of the Anzacs and both attend services every year for the occasion.

"I’m very pleased to do it," says Mr Rope.

Mark and Kieran are also proud to represent the school for the memorial and both volunteered for the role.

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"The Anzacs gave their lives for us, it doesn’t hurt to give 45 minutes to remember what they did," says Mark.

The service will be held on April 25 in the school hall at 9.30am.

The guest speaker for the event is old boy and historian Lindsay Diggelmann, who started at the school in 1977.

Morning tea will be served at 10.15am and all are welcome to attend.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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