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Seaman honoured

DIANA WORTHY
Last updated 05:00 05/03/2014
Vivien Foster presents merchant seaman veteran Harry Rowe
Diana Worthy
FITTING TRIBUTE: British Merchant Navy Association president Vivien Foster presents merchant seaman veteran Harry Rowe, 93, with a commemorative pennant.

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It was a copy of the Waiheke Marketplace sent halfway round the world that resulted in a special presentation at the island's RSA this month.

British Merchant Seamen Association president Vivien Foster had the paper posted by her daughter who thought she'd be interested in the tale of Waiheke resident Harry Rowe.

Mr Rowe, 93, served in the Merchant Navy during the war and his medals have been collated on a shield that hangs in the RSA.

It took 30 years for the British Government to honour and recognise the Merchant Navy for its war efforts and the shield hanging in the Ostend clubroom since last August is the island's own tribute.

Ms Foster says the front page story made her want to meet Mr Rowe as well as Dan Mellamphy, the man who made the shield.

A visit to family on the island this month offered the ideal opportunity and she also brought a pennant from the British Merchant Seamen Association.

The gift was presented to the RSA in a special ceremony conducted by Waiheke RSA club president Campbell Farquhar. It now hangs alongside the shield.

Ms Foster has been president of the British association for 17 years and leads the merchant seamen's section on the Remembrance Day march to the London cenotaph. She had been campaigning since 1989 to get recognition for the men.

"So many, especially in Liverpool, were spat on in the streets. The merchant seamen were called non-combatant civilians yet 32,000 men lost their lives."

Mr Rowe remembers it well.

"We were known as the Cinderella navy because we went to the ball but no-one came after us with a glass slipper. We got turned into pumpkins instead."

Ms Foster is also determined to get Mr Rowe a medal he should have received years ago - the Arctic Star - for his service aboard a ship that went to Murmansk in Russia.

"When the men came back from the Arctic, they were so traumatised," she says. "There were orders forbidding ships to stop and pick up survivors of vessels sunk in attacks.

"The men could only watch as they left their mates to die. In the Arctic Sea, it took around 15 minutes. The surviving ships were in convoy and needed to move on."

She says it's nice to know someone who gave his all in World War II is still here to remind people of it.

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