Veteran changes Vietnam story

Last updated 14:15 27/04/2011
Geoff Bateman
NICOLE GOURLEY/The Southland Time
ON THE RECORD: Invercargill man Geoff Bateman, right, writes his service record for Vietnam veteran Graeme Henderson.
GEOFF BATEMAN: Told The Southland Times on Anzac Day that he volunteered for Vietnam in 1968.
GEOFF BATEMAN: Told The Southland Times on Anzac Day that he volunteered for Vietnam in 1968.

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A man masquerading as a Vietnam veteran has confessed to a military record that shows he never served in the conflict after a genuine ex-serviceman paid him a house call today.

The Southland Times tagged along this morning as Graeme Henderson, who served as a warrant officer with 161 Battery in South Vietnam in 1971, knocked on Geoff Bateman's door and asked for an explanation.

Geoff Bateman told the Times on Anzac Day that he volunteered for Vietnam in 1968, the height of the conflict and the peak of anti-war protests.

When pressed for details of his service, he said he would not talk about it  the memories were painful and he had "lost mates".

Yesterday he maintained the story when questioned, saying: "Yeah, I was in Vietnam.''

Today, he recanted that, claimed he had never served in the conflict and that he never said he did.

However, his confused wife Urmilla Wati demanded to know why her husband was being questioned.

Her husband had told her throughout their relationship and two-year marriage he had served in the war, she said.

Meanwhile, Henderson continued to question Bateman, who eventually coughed up his service number and wrote his record down.

Bateman joined the regular army force in 1965 in the 3rd Transport Company based at Waiouru. He also served in the Royal New Zealand Engineers and as a fireman during his five-year stint at the military base.

According to him, upon discharge in 1970, he returned to Southland and joined the Territorial Artillery Unit, when that unit folded he joined the 3rd Transport Company.

That record shows Bateman never left New Zealand as part of his service.

Mr Bateman offered no explanation about claiming Vietnam service, opting instead to deny he had ever said he had served in the war.

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