A 99-year-old Picton World War II veteran is hoping to get the all clear for a trip to Italy for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino.
Ian Mathieson has never returned to Monte Cassino and says the trip, being planned by Veterans' Affairs New Zealand, will be one of mixed emotions.
"I look forward to seeing who else from the medical corp will be there and to pick up the old threads and see where it all happened," he said. "When you reach 99 you accept the fact that many people you used to know won't be there - I don't think there will be many of us left."
A chemist by profession, Mr Mathieson left for the war aged 24 and returned four years later.
He started his time in the military at the Trentham Military Camp in Lower Hutt. "They saw I was a chemist and I got stuck longer than I was meant to be, to help soldiers coming back from the war," he said.
He had asked to be sent to the front and was told he would go where he was told. "I went to Parliament and asked them to intervene and let me be shipped out the way I was supposed to. Not long after that I was aboard the RMS Aquitania."
While the war was something he would rather forget, he said he held good memories of times s with friends. "I remember setting up our tents and digging another 5 or 6 feet of dirt out from under them so we could get in and be protected from the weather. We screamed like girls at the sight of a scorpion while digging, though."
The trip to Italy is planned to depart on May 13, just four days after his 100th birthday.
- The Marlborough Express