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NEW ZEALAND: Brave soldier loses his final battle

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on October 29, 2010


One of New Zealand’s most respected and admired soldiers lost his final battle yesterday.

John Masters (right) meets Hariprasad Gurung, whose life he saved on the battlefields of Borneo in 1965, during a reunion at Christchurch's Papanui RSA earlier this year. Photo / Simon Baker

New Zealand’s inaugural Anzac of the Year, Lieutenant Colonel John Masters, ONZM, MC, JP, died of cancer at his Christchurch home yesterday morning. He was 75.

Defence Force chief Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae said Lt Col Masters was “an excellent example of a soldier and an officer”.

“I would like to here express the condolences of the Defence Force to that superb leader,” he told reporters at the Defence Force headquarters in Wellington today.

In honour of Lt Col Masters, the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association (RSA) has told all its branches to fly their house flags at half mast until his funeral at St Barnabas in Christchurch on Tuesday.

“We have lost a great New Zealander and our thoughts are with John’s wife, Alisoun, and family, and many friends during this very sad time,” said RSA national president Don McIver.

“John Masters was an inspiration to all who met him; he touched many people’s lives and will be sadly missed.”

Earlier this year Lt Col Masters became the inaugural recipient of Anzac of the Year, an award that recognises the qualities of comradeship, compassion, courage and commitment.

He was a decorated army officer who served for 27 years and saw active service in Malaysia, Borneo and Vietnam.

His bravery was recognised with the award of the Military Cross for rescuing a wounded Gurkha warrant officer under heavy fire in Borneo in 1965.

Lt Col Master’s testimony to the Health Select committee was crucial to breaking open the facts of New Zealand service personnel being exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

Minister of Veterans’ Affairs Judith Collins also extended her condolences on behalf of the New Zealand veteran community to the family and friends of Lt Col Masters.

“I was greatly saddened to learn of the death of this inspirational New Zealander. I would like to extend my deepest condolences to his family and friends,” Ms Collins said.

“As a soldier, a commander and a campaigner for the rights of New Zealand soldiers affected by Agent Orange, Lt Col Masters served his country with distinction and worked tirelessly for his fellow servicemen and women.”

Ms Collins said he was deeply respected and admired throughout the armed services, the veterans community and the wider community.

“He exemplified the Anzac spirit of courage, comradeship, and compassion.

“His passing reminds us of the debt we all owe our veterans for their bravery and their sacrifice,” Ms Collins said.

Lt Col Masters was heavily involved in Rannerdale War Veterans home in Christchurch and was instrumental in raising money to allow the home to stay open and to be upgraded.

When he received the first Anzac of the Year Award in April he was too ill to attend a ceremony in Auckland, so his family and comrades took the ceremony to him in Christchurch. He was presented with a specially designed 60kg bronze statue, based on the famous Gallipoli image of a man and a donkey, which will move on to a new recipient next year.

At that time Lt Gen Mateparae said it was nearly impossible to paint a picture of Lt Col Masters that could do justice to the services he had given his country and veteran community.

One Response to “NEW ZEALAND: Brave soldier loses his final battle”

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    NEW ZEALAND: Brave soldier loses his final battle

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