'We did our job and now we hope you will do yours'

Colin Cameron is proud of his medals earned while serving the New Zealand people on board HMS Achilles.
MAHVASH ALI/FAIRFAX NZ

Colin Cameron is proud of his medals earned while serving the New Zealand people on board HMS Achilles.

One says the war made him a man. One says the army made him a better man.

Two west Auckland war veterans reflected on their service for our country before Anzac Day.

Colin Cameron was a teenager when he signed up for Royal New Zealand Navy, much to the chagrin of his mother.

The New Zealand warship, HMS Achilles underway before it created naval history in the Battle of the River Plate which ...
SUPPLIED

The New Zealand warship, HMS Achilles underway before it created naval history in the Battle of the River Plate which led to the scuttling of the German pocket battleship, Graf Spee in 1939.

But the now 92-year-old had the support of his father who had fought at Gallipoli.

Cameron served as a radar operator on HMS Achilles from 1942-1946.

He was 17 when he stepped foot on the ship and returned "a man" of 21, he said. 

Colin Cameron said he signed up for the Navy because a boy next door signed up for it. His mother was against the idea ...
MAHVASH ALI/FAIRFAX NZ

Colin Cameron said he signed up for the Navy because a boy next door signed up for it. His mother was against the idea he says.

The Auckland man earned five medals for his service. The 39-45 star for joining the war, the Atlantic and North Sea star, the Burma star with a Pacific clasp, a service medal from the Commonwealth and one from his home country for his service.

There was a chance he would wear them to this year's Anzac Day service at the New Lynn RSA, but he would be having a "big beer" with his mates, he said.

There was a special one in the crowd, he said, a fellow ex-navy man who he went to school with. 

Albert Asher holding a picture of his wife, left, that was taken on their wedding day. The 100-year-old says the army ...
MAHVASH ALI/FAIRFAX NZ

Albert Asher holding a picture of his wife, left, that was taken on their wedding day. The 100-year-old says the army made him a better man.

But so many years on, he did not think the world had learned much from World War II.

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Cameron said New Zealand was the only country staying out of the fight, while everyone else seemed to be wanting to "have a go". 

The war veteran said he had much hope for the new generation. He was encouraged by the youth who turned up to the Anzac Day dawn service at Auckland Museum.

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that commemorates all Australians and New ...
Vorrasit Siwawej

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations.

"We did our job and now we hope you will do yours."

Not far from where Cameron lives in Blockhouse Bay, another war survivor, Albert Asher, planned to attend a service at his retirement village.

For the 100-year-old, Anzac Day brought bittersweet memories. He served in England, Syria, Greece and Tunis.

"I survived the war, but on my way back home I got bowled over by a car in England and suffered a broken hip. How is that for a story?"

Anzac Day reminded him of the friends he had lost.

But he said it was the army that made him a better man.

"The army has given me everything. I was very lucky. I used to be shy, but I became a much better person by the end of my time with them."

For Asher, Anzac Day was not "really a celebration".

Asher rang in his his 100th birthday with friends and family at the New Lynn RSA in August last year.

Go to rsa.org.nz to find the nearest Anzac Day service to you.

 - Stuff

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