Meeting Queen a high point for WWII vet

23:30, Jun 18 2014
Colin Kemp was one of nine New Zealand World War II veterans who attended the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy this month.

Shaking hands with the Queen was among the highlights of a trip to D-Day commemorations for one Taranaki war veteran.

"It's a oncer isn't it," Colin Kemp said.

"She didn't say anything, but the Duke of Edinburgh was interested in one of my medals. He thought it was a Pacific Star, but it was an Atlantic Star."

Kemp was among New Zealand World War II veterans who attended the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, this month.

Allied forces landed at five beaches in Normandy on June 6 1944. The operation began the invasion of German-occupied Western Europe and contributed to an Allied victory in the war.

Kemp, who is "91 not out," said while meeting the royals was nice, the big highlight was the D-Day commemorations.


"It was pretty full on, there was a great display by the air force dropping paratroopers on to the beach," he said.

"It was quite spectacular really."

Kemp said he was on the Royal Navy training ship HMS Ganges on June 6, 1944.

"There was an air raid warning in the morning and we could see the barges heading down the river but we thought it was a training exercise. It turned out to be real."

Though not part of the D-Day landings, Kemp said he was involved in the trip because he was part of the navy.

Kemp said he had tried to go to war as part of the army, before joining the navy.

"I had three years' army training but when it came time to go overseas they potted me for lying about my age," he said.

"I really wanted to get there so I joined the navy and went to England to be trained."

Kemp ended up as a radar operator on an oil tanker in the North Atlantic convoy.

"We were carrying 100 octane fuel which was pretty dangerous cargo," he said.

"We used to run between New York and London.

"There were submarines in the area and the odd ship was lost but we were never hit."

As well as visiting the five beaches, veterans were also taken to the New Zealand embassy in Paris and spent some time with the Governor General, Kemp said.

The group were flown to France on an Air Force 757, he said.

"We were treated like VIPs the whole time. We got to sit in business class while all the other officials were sitting in economy," he said.

"There was one minder between two veterans and they were all high ranking female army officers who carried our bags and did everything for us."

Taranaki Daily News