'True navy legend' Shiu Hang Che retires

LEGEND: Chief of the Navy Rear Admiral Jack Steer helps farewell Shiu Hang Che this morning.
LEGEND: Chief of the Navy Rear Admiral Jack Steer helps farewell Shiu Hang Che this morning.

A laundryman known as "No 1" was farewelled from his navy job today - 57 years and two months after he began it.

Virtually everybody who has served aboard New Zealand warships will have sailed with 88-year-old Shiu Hang Che.

And in the senior service where crisp uniforms are an absolute requirement, Shiu played a vital role in shipboard life.

"At 88 years old, we salute a true navy legend, and wish him well in his retirement," the navy says.

He's been laundryman, a civilian posting, on nine New Zealand navy ships and served in two conflicts aboard them - the Korean War and Malaysia Conflict.

"Where ship go, I go," he told the New Zealand Herald 18 years ago when he came ashore.

"Sometimes it is dangerous, you don't know what time you will be killed."

Chief of the Navy Rear Admiral Jack Steer attended a ceremony at Devonport Naval Base this morning to celebrate Shiu whose last seaborne posting ended in 1996 with the decommissioning of HMNZS Wellington.

But he continued working, serving at the shore training base HMNZS Philomel.

His first ship in 1947 was the Royal Navy's St Brides Bay. He served on six Royal Navy ships which had a contract with Hong Kong laundrymen to serve the fleet based there.

New Zealand picked up the system and Shiu joined the New Zealand Navy as a civilian in 1957.

He sailed aboard the Royalist, Rotoiti, Pukaki, Taranaki, Blackpool, Otago, Waikato, Canterbury and Wellington.

For almost 40 years of his career he lived on board ships even while alongside in Devonport, returning to his family in Hong Kong for one month a year.

On Canterbury the ship visited Shanghai in 1987 and Shiu got to spend four days with his family.

He became a New Zealand citizen in 1989 and in 1992 he bought a house here. His wife Boon Shau and one daughter Wai Lai moved to New Zealand, leaving his three sons behind in Hong Kong.

When he was 70, Shiu told the New Zealand Herald there was hardly anybody in the navy who did not know him.

"Everyone says hello - I am granddad to them," he said.

"Everybody call me No 1 ... that's a pretty good name, No 1."