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More veterans to travel to Monte Cassino

More veterans to travel to Monte Cassino

Prime Minister Helen Clark said today that a ballot had been conducted to select veterans to join the official delegation that will travel to Italy on an RNZAF Boeing to attend the 60th commemorations of the Battle of Monte Cassino.

Helen Clark said a review of the configuration of the plane meant that provision had been made for 50 veterans to be accommodated on the flight.

“This week I asked officials to review planning for the visit to see whether more room could be made available for veterans,” Helen Clark said.

“I am pleased that the review has resulted in provision being made for 50 veterans to travel on the air force flight to Monte Cassino.

“Other veterans who want to attend the commemorations are eligible for a $2000 subsidy from the government to help pay for their trip. I have been advised by Veterans’ Affairs that more than 80 applications have so far been received for the subsidy.

“I want to stress that all Monte Cassino veterans are eligible for this subsidy.

“I am looking forward to meeting the veterans at this important commemoration. Like the Battle of Crete and the Battle of El Alamein, the fighting at Monte Cassino had a significant impact on New Zealand. The fighting was fierce and there was considerable loss of life.

“On 19 April I will be launching a new oral history with the recollections of World War II veterans. The Ministry of Culture and Heritage publication, A Fair Sort of Battering: New Zealanders Remember the Italian Campaign, includes the stories of 13 Cassino veterans.

“No previous government has assisted so many veterans wanting to attend wartime commemorations.

“In 1994 the National Government required veterans travelling on the RNZAF plane to the 50th commemorations at Monte Cassino to contribute $2000 towards the cost of their travel,” Helen Clark said.

A ballot organised by the RSA today determined which veterans would travel to Monte Cassino on the air force flight. Veterans would need to pass thorough medical checks before being allowed to travel and will be accompanied by a medical team.

"The flight to and from Italy will be staggered over three days each way, and the party travelling on the RNZAF Boeing 757 will spend seven days in Monte Cassino," Helen Clark said.

Those travelling with the RNZAF contingent will include secondary school students, Defence personnel, including a chaplain and medical team, two MPs, and media.

The essay competition, which closes on 11 April, is open to students aged 15 years and over. They are being asked to write a one-thousand word essay on one of six topics. More information on the competition or a copy of the entry form can be obtained from Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand on freephone 0800-483 8372 or veterans@xtra.co.nz, or from its website at http://www.veteransaffairs.mil.nz

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