Boys' High honours fallen soldier of Falklands War

20:00, Jan 31 2014

The sacrifice by Private Richard Absolon has been remembered in a wreath-laying ceremony at his former school, Palmerston North Boys High.

Private Richard John De Mansfield Absolon, or "Dickie", as he was known to his comrades, was the only New Zealand soldier killed during the Falklands War.

The war, between Argentina and the United Kingdom, began in 1982 when Argentina invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands, then British territories, in an attempt to establish sovereignty.

The wreath-laying ceremony was attended by Mike Summers, a sixth generation Falkland Islander and member of the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands.

Mr Summers has been talking to governments in New Zealand and Australia during the past few weeks about the progress the Falklands have made since the war, including implementing its own constitution, and asking for each country's continued support as it struggles to retain self-governance.

Richard Absolon was born in England, but in 1972 his family moved to New Zealand, taking up farming in Marton.


In 1980, aged 18, he returned to Britain and joined the army, where after six months' training, he was sent to 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment, and joined A company. He was later deployed to the Falklands, where he worked as a reconnaissance scout.

On June 13, 1982, the day after a successful assault on the enemy, he was mortally wounded by mortar fire and died later that evening, aged 19.

Palmerston North Boys' High have a plaque and memorial trophy dedicated to Private Absolon. The trophy is awarded each year to the pupil who has demonstrated outstanding qualities of fitness, courage, dedication and determination, as exemplified by Private Absolon.

"It's a tragedy that young men have to die in war, but if they die in the cause of freedom, then they have done great work," Mr Summers said.

A large majority of veterans who had since visited the islands were pleased to see what the Falklands had managed to do in the wake of the war, he said.

Gross domestic product had increased 15-fold, they had established a fishing and tourism industry, strengthened their agricultural industry, and were exploring for hydro-carbons and had already found oil.

"One of the tragedies of war, as many soldiers have told us, is if you go and fight somewhere and come back, and go back again years later, and it's still the same as it was before, that is a tragedy. In the Falklands, we have moved forward very substantially"

Yesterday's ceremony was attended by Private Absolon's stepmother, Gillian Absolon, who said she was not in favour of war, but was pleased that the future for the people of the Falklands was hopeful.

The school's memorial trophy, celebrating the traits her stepson exhibited was lovely, she said.

Manawatu Standard