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Minister honours legendary unit at final parade

Hon Judith Collins

Minister of Veterans' Affairs

12 December 2008

Media Release        

Minister honours legendary unit at final parade

New Zealand owes a debt of gratitude to the surviving members of the legendary Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) which held its final parade today, Veterans’ Affairs Minister Hon Judith Collins says.

The LRDG was one of the first Special Forces units formed and was the forerunner to the Special Air Service.

The unit was made up mostly of tough and resourceful Kiwis who undertook covert missions far behind enemy lines in North Africa, Italy and Greece during the Second World War.

At its height, 400 New Zealanders were part of the LRDG. Today, just 13 survive and three – Ian Judge, Tom Ritchie and Norm Gedye - took part in today’s parade through the streets of Papakura in Auckland.

The unit has held a reunion almost every year since 1948. Due to fragile health of the surviving members, today’s reunion is likely to be the last held anywhere in the world.

Ms Collins paid tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of those who served with the LRDG.

“I salute your courage on behalf of all New Zealanders. The nation owes you a debt of gratitude,” Ms Collins said.

“Your footprints will never fade from the sands of North Africa and the stony battlefields of Italy and Greece. In New Zealand, the memory of your great actions and your sacrifice will live on for generations to come,” Ms Collins said.

When the unit was formed, the mostly rural New Zealanders were thought to be better equipped for periods of isolation, harsh weather conditions and danger than their British counterparts.

Germany’s Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was reported as saying: "The LRDG caused us more damage than any other unit of their size."



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