Mr W. HEREWINI VISITS NEW ZEALAND SERVICEMEN
During a three-week tour of South-East Asia, Mr W. Herewini, a member of the Dominion Executive Committee of the New Zealand Returned Services Association, had frank discussions with New Zealand servicemen, many of whom were Maoris.
He wanted to find out how the R.S.A. could help them with their problems.
Mr Herewini arrived at Changi, Singapore, on February 11 and then went to Kuching, Sarawak. New Zealand Air Force personnel at Kuching, after expressing appreciation for Christmas parcels, told him they were dissatisfied with the new rates of pay; they complained that any increase appeared to be
On February 14 Mr Herewini visited the headquarters of the New Zealand Far East Land Forces at Singapore, where he met the Commanding Officer, Colonel P. H. G. Hamilton. He later interviewed ten New Zealand seamen on board H.M.S. Mull of Kintyre, the supply ship for minesweepers at the Singapore naval base.
“Again the new rates of pay and the increased living costs were criticised,” said Mr Herewini. “But the real bone of contention was the fact that married personnel on base supply were not allowed by regulation to have their wives and families accompany them.
“The term of service is apparently nine months, but they felt that consideration could be given to allowing their wives and families to live with them at the naval base. This could be an encouragement for naval personnel to remain in the service longer and thus avoid the drain of trained men who, in their present mood, appeared to have no wish to continue for a further term.”
Mr Herewini inspected the headquarters of 41 Squadron of the R.N.Z.A.F. at Changi. Aware that the squadron had a high reputation for reliability and the excellent maintenance of its Bristol aircraft, he learnt that the ground crews worked far more than normal duty hours to ensure the aircraft were always ready for operational service.
Visiting Malacca on February 16, Mr Herewini was met by Lt Colonel B. Poananga, the Commander of the 1st Battalion of the New
Zealand Infantry Regiment, and Lt George Kereama. He inspected Terendak Camp and found that the Battalion was being moulded into an efficient fighting unit. The men were fit and full of confidence.
When he arrived at Bien Hoa on February 18 in an R.N.Z.A.F. Hercules aircraft, Mr Herewini saw the massive build-up of American planes, munitions, transport and other war equipment in South Vietnam. On February 22 he visited General Westmoreland, Commander of the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, who praised the New Zealand artillery battery, but said he wished the force could have more guns.
Mr Herewini said that New Zealand gunners in South Vietnam wanted, among other things, a shorter period of service for single men. It had been pointed out that it was hard for single men to watch the married men leave after 12 months or less while the former had to stay for up to 20 months.
There was bitterness about the inequality of the basic rate of pay for gunners under 20 years of age. Two 19-year-old gunners got about £4 a day less than gunners aged 20 or over, yet all were exposed to the same dangers.
“The gunners also thought the new pay rates were unsatisfactory and benefited only a few. They said an increase was given with one hand and, because of the increased living costs, taken away with the other.”
Servicemen expressed appreciation to Mr Herewini for the Christmas gifts and consignment of cigarette tobacco sent by the R.S.A. He noted that at the base camp at Bien Hoa beer could be bought at 20 to 25 cents a can as well as canned drinks. Cigarettes (1 dollar 40 cents a carton), transistors, cameras and some other things were duty free.
“A wide screen, open-air movie was available, but otherwise there was little else to do but watch television,” he said. “The transmitting station was on a large American aircraft which flew a box course to give uninterrupted reception to viewers.”
FOOTNOTE: Mr Herewini brought back a request from soldiers, sailors and airmen for muttonbirds. As a result the Minister of Maori Affairs, Mr Hanan, made £250 available to buy them.
“I am doing this only once, and I hope that in future other organisations will undertake to send these and other special New Zealand foods to all servicemen serving New Zealand so well overseas,” said Mr Hanan.