Veterans feel snubbed by Government
Sun, 13 May 2012 6:22p.m.
By Charlotte Shipman
British World War II veterans who have lived here for decades say they're being snubbed by the Government.
They've been refused a place on a Government-paid trip to unveil a London memorial that’s dedicated to the men they flew beside and the victory they helped secure.
Douglas Williamson wrote about his World War II exploits with the RAF's 75th Squadron, the first Commonwealth squadron within Bomber Command.
He was surrounded by New Zealand Air Force men.
Douglas Williamson was his crew's engineer, supplied by the RAF, because the New Zealand Air Force didn't train engineers for Lancaster.
“I think I am a bit special because I was in the 75th squadron,” says Mr Williamson.
But not special enough to qualify for the Government's all expenses-paid, two-and-a-half week trip to the unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial in London next month, because he didn't serve in the New Zealand Air Force.
“I feel as though I deserve to go,” he says.
“I consider myself a New Zealander. I think I should be treated like the rest of them.”
Ninety veterans asked to go on the trip. Around 12 were told they couldn't because they served in the wrong air force.
Harry Widdup is another disappointed RAF veteran. He, like Douglas Williamson, feels the Government is saying he's not a New Zealander.
“To find out I’m not a full-blown Kiwi after 54 years…” says Mr Widdup. “My home, my life, everything about me is here.”
“It has been a terribly short-sighted view of who they're taking to London,” says his son Andrew Widdup.
Over the next three years, the Government has set aside up to $2.8 million to make sure New Zealand veterans of World War II can attend commemorations in Italy, Egypt, France, New Caledonia and the United Kingdom.
“We really don't know how many people there could be out there who served in some of these other events and the numbers could just become too hard to sustain,” says Rick Ottaway of Veterans Affairs.
This trip will cost around $500,000. Mr Ottaway says they had to prioritise New Zealanders.
The Air Force's Boeing 757 can take 126 passengers to London. So far it is thought around 55 veterans will go.
Veterans Affairs suggest those who don't qualify for the trip should seek support from their own Governments to get to London, but the UK government told 3 News it is not providing any funding to get veterans to the unveiling.
Veterans Affairs says it's planning to have a New Zealand commemoration too, most likely after the unveiling so those who do get to go can share the experience with their grounded comrades.
If you would like to help get the bomber command veterans who do not qualify for the New Zealand veterans' affairs trip to London, you can donate to a special fund:
Account Number: 12-3015-0649295-00
Name: JN DOG BOMBER VETERANS
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16/05/2012 12:12:07 p.m.
peter young wrote:
These 12 veterans were invited to apply and then denied.
Harry Widdup ( 87 year old, Veteran ) whom I know has been a tax paying, NZ citizen for over 50 years.
Harry formed the Bomber Command association here.
No distinction was made by them, when they flew these sorties together.
So it is wrong for the government now to make that distinction the these NZ citizens.
There is plenty of room on that plane for these men to be with their brothers in arms.
15/05/2012 4:40:29 p.m.
CHRIS NEWEY wrote:
Yes but these two particular gentlemen interviewed have lived here in NZ for 40 and 55 years respectively! They are Kiwis. Why shouldn't they expect our govt to take them? The UK govt has said it won't fund them so where does that leave them? As second-class Kiwis??!
14/05/2012 2:16:04 p.m.
I agree with Bluey. This is not about the NZ Govt refusing to send Kiwi vets. This is about vets from another country expecting the NZ tax payer to fund their trip. This men served in the British military and as such the British govt (and Tax payer) should fund any travel. The more disturbing part is that they are only taking 55 vets who served this country and put their lives at risk for us when a 757 can take 120+ passengers. As Slewyn asked...how many bludgers and hangers on are getting a free jolly out of this??? They should be taking the absolute minimum of serving personnel, no politicans, no "advisors". Take the people who risked it all back before taking those seeking to glorify themselves.
13/05/2012 9:44:49 p.m.
They are not RNZAF if their own country won't pay then isn't it just common sense to understand that we aren't big enough to assist them. We need to take care of our own first!!! I wish they could go but as with many things in this world, they may have to save or speak with family to fulfil this dream but it isn't the taxpayers responsibility. Sorry and all the best to the 12!!!
13/05/2012 8:17:53 p.m.
selwyn buckingham wrote:
This is nothing new of our Veterans Affairs.Some years back for the Cassino commemorations they pulled the same trick. Then they took a larger plane than on a previous trip but with fewer veterans and many had to charter a private flight. Of course they had to have room for a haka party and all those forces personnel with bird droppings on their shoulders.On a plane that can carry 126 I wonder how many of those bludgers and hangers on they will be taking. These old codgers deserve to be given the first shot at going because also that at their age they will not get the chance again.
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