It was, as they say, a no-brainer that ex-RAF pilot John Beeching should go to London to take part in a commemorative ceremony – and a travesty that his cause received no official support. That he will in fact be able to make next month's trip after all says much about Nelson generosity and the power of a great story.
OPINION: Despite living in New Zealand for 60 years and being a citizen of this country for half of that time, Mr Beeching was ruled ineligible for the official New Zealand veterans' delegation to attend the June 23 ceremony. This was because he had served with a Royal Air Force night fighter squadron and not as a member of a New Zealand force.
Fair enough – there are any number of war vets who have served with the militaries of other countries now living in New Zealand, and a costly precedent might have been set. However, Mr Beeching was initially led to believe he'd be welcome to participate in a dedication and unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial, as one of the few surviving ex-Bomber Command members. As such, he had his own special part in a terrible chapter of modern history, played out at a time when the links between New Zealand and Britain were strong.
With no help from the New Zealand or British governments – or, for that matter the RAF – Mr Beeching was resigned to missing out on what he saw as a last chance to "mentally say goodbye to all the blokes I flew with, and whom I lost in the war". The 88-year-old Nelson pensioner could not pay his own way, and his plight was first noted by Nelson drama company Dramatix Theatre, best known for its annual war remembrance production Lest We Forget.
From the day Mr Beeching's story first featured on the Nelson Mail's front page, it has touched many people. It is no surprise that the necessary $20,000 to fly John and his wife Wendy to London and back – in appropriate comfort – has been covered. Half of the money comes from local building company G J Gardner Homes, more than $5000 from other donations, with the balance underwritten by the Cawthron Institute, where Mr Beeching continues to work part-time as a handyman. Others, like travel agent Sue Ketel, have contributed significantly.
A little from Mr Beeching's memoirs has been serialised in the Mail over the past three weeks. His writing reveals a thoughtful man whose service during World War II was indefatigable and heroic, and whose survival during dark times verges on the miraculous. He has earned his trip to London, and hopefully will receive fitting recognition while there. Dogged by indecision Sorting out where the city's dogs can go walkies should not be overly taxing. But even this task appears to have stretched the city council beyond reason. Given a range of well-publicised defeats and backdowns this term – whether due to inadequate public consultation, poor advice or councillors ignoring pertinent advice from staff or consultants – the latest non-decision over the dog control bylaw is no surprise. The council's track record backs the cautious approach. The downside is a council that appears incapable of achieving anything.
- The Nelson Mail