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Hon Mark Burton Speech: Burma Star Veterans

Speech: Burma Star Veterans

Hon Mark Burton addressed the final parade of the New Zealand Burma Star Association on VE Day 2004.

President and past Presidents of the Burma Star Veterans Association, Eddie Taylor, Bill Dawson, Burma Star Association past President, His Worship the Mayor, Grahame Hall, Tony Horton President of the Te Arawa Returned Services League, Burma Star Veterans, distinguished guests

New Zealand has an exceptionally proud military history. Both at home and abroad, New Zealand's servicemen and women have contributed greatly to building New Zealand as a nation, as well as to a shared sense of what it means to be a New Zealander.

In a time when our world is in a state of some uncertainty and instability, it is timely to remember the tradition of service and excellence our Armed Forces have shown in the past-a tradition that is epitomised in the holders of the Burma Star.

We are here today to honour the New Zealand based holders of the Burma Star, at this their last parade and to recall and respect the service of the 'Forgotten Army', that we have not forgotten.

The Burma Star Association is a world wide organisation. With the New Zealand Branch formed early in the 1950's in Tokoroa by Eddie J Taylor.

Although no New Zealand units took part in the fighting in Burma during the Pacific War, a substantial numbers of New Zealanders were there serving with RAF Squadrons and with the Indian Army. In particular, 67 Squadron RAF was staffed almost completely by RNZAF personnel on secondment. It was the only RAF squadron in Burma when Japan entered the war.

>From early 1942,New Zealand met requests for specialist officers for service with the Indian Army, and by 1943, there were some 300 New Zealanders in theatre, including 200 pilots.

Invading Japanese soldiers forced the British, with elements from the Indian Army, the African Army and serviceman from the Dominions, to retreat through rainforests and swamps. They became known as the Forgotten Army, because of the almost complete lack of recognition of their achievements, partly because Britain was focussing on the war in Europe at that time.

The New Zealand holders of the Burma Star are part of the long tradition of service we have witnessed from our service men and women.

Whether deployed on humanitarian tasks in such countries as Iraq and Afghanistan, or cutting off lines of supply and communication for terrorist groups associated with Al Qaeda in the Gulf of Oman, the NZDF continues to add to its operational record of excellence around the world.

In the future, the men and women of the New Zealand Defence Force will continue to make a significant contribution, both to the security and well-being of our nation and the peace and security of our world.

They will train, equip and prepare for deployment as they always have, even while hoping that the need to engage in conflict will not arise.

They carry on a tradition that you are also part of and they will, in their turn, become part of a proud history of service. We owe you all, past and present, a very real a debt of gratitude for your service.

I know that some of you have travelled considerable distances to be here today for your last parade.

So, in conclusion, I thank you for inviting Carol and me to be here with you on this important day, and for affording me the privilege of participating in the formalities of this - your final parade.

ENDS


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