Desert vet feted in Jeep convoy
Upper Moutere man Alf Saunders fought in the desert, spending weeks at a time behind enemy lines during World War II.
To celebrate his 95th birthday his family helped him re-live those memories by organising a convey of 1940s Jeeps and men in World War II desert clothing to turn up to his party.
Mr Saunders and his family, including children and grandchildren, were taken for a ride in the 1940s Ford and Willy's Jeeps, an experience Mr Saunders said he really enjoyed.
"It's just like the old days."
Mr Saunders' son Max said his father was in the first echelon of the 2nd New Zealand Division and went to Egypt in 1940.
He had been a territorial soldier before the war and volunteered as a 23-year-old.
Max Saunders said his father was first in the long-range patrol, which became the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) - a reconnaissance and raiding unit of the British Army during the war.
Wikipedia said German commander Field Marshal Erwin Rommel admitted that the LRDG "caused us more damage than any other British unit of equal strength".
Max Saunders said his father had many patrols behind enemy lines.
"He used to go thousands of kilometres behind the front line to look at enemy airfields and drop off agents, and look at what was going on. In those days that was how you had to get your information. They would spend up to six weeks doing this."
Kiwis were preferred for the patrol due to their all-round skills, including their mechanical knowledge and self reliance, he said.
Mr Saunders is one of the few surviving members of the LRDG.
He served in the desert group for two years, "which is a long period for that amount of work. It's nervous work and highly stressful".
He served overseas until 1943 and came back to New Zealand.
He married his wife Pearl in October 1943, and the family visited Mrs Saunders at the Jack Inglis Friendship Hospital after the birthday celebrations.
- © Fairfax NZ News