Georgetown resident Jim Quested says his trip to Cassino to remember fellow comrades who died fighting for New Zealand was “a trip of a lifetime.”
Mr Quested was one of four people from Otago who successfully applied to be part of the trip to Cassino, along with Tom Dungey, 91, of Tapanui, Alex McBurney, 93, of Frankton and Bill Roulston, 93, of Tapanui.
In total 40 surviving comrades made their way to Cassino to remember World War 2, and their time in the Battle of Cassino.
Mr Quested, who never actually fought in Cassino, said it was a fantastic trip to be part of.
“The trip was really well organised and we still managed to fit everything despite losing a day and a bit due to some of us getting food poisoning, myself included.”
It was a two-week long trip with five days in Cassino visiting and taking part in commemorative services at various locations.
The veterans attended mass at the restored Abbey of Monte Cassino, Cassino Railway Station where they took part in a commemorative service for New Zealander’s. They also attended a National Commemorative Service at the Cassino Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery and a Commonwealth Service of Remembrance.
Mr Quested had a host of highlights on the tour, but none more so than placing a poppy on the grave of former Georgetown resident Tommy McPhee, who was a private in the 26th Battalion and served as a signalman. He knew Mr McPhee from when he attended his send-off in 1942 at Awamoko Hall.
Shaking hands with Prince Harry and the Governor General Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae was another highlight.
“Placing a poppy on Tommy McPhee’s grave in Cassino was really awesome and I was one of the select few in the group to shake hands with Prince Harry and the Governor General.”
Mr Quested did not serve in the Battle of Cassino; he was back in New Zealand at the time servingr in the Air Force, for whom he had volunteered.
“I never made Cassino, but I was a driver in the Army, then headed for the air force where I was an aircrew trainer.
“I finished my time at the 16th Battalion in Japan,” Mr Quested said.
By BRAYDEN LINDSAY
REMEMBERING A LOCAL: Georgetown resident Jim Quested at the Cassino grave of fellow Georgetown resident Tommy McPhee, a signalman.