2010 ANZAC of the Year

The Royal New Zealand Returned Services Association has released:

The Prime Minister John Key announced today that Christchurch man Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) John Milbanke Masters ONZM MC JP has been awarded the inaugural of the Year award.

The award was instituted by the Royal New Zealand Returned Services’ Association (RNZRSA) to recognise the ANZAC qualities of comradeship, compassion, courage and commitment.

Lt Col Masters was chosen from nominations received from throughout New Zealand.

RNZRSA National President Robin Klitscher said Lt Col Masters was an excellent choice as both his career in the Army and after were guided significantly by the traits the award sought to recognise.

“He is a decorated Army officer who served for 27 years. During that time he was awarded the Military Cross for rescuing a wounded Gurkha Warrant Officer under extremely difficult circumstances. He was also made a life member of the Gurkha Regimental Association’s Sirmoor Club – an honour normally restricted to Gurkhas.”

As well as seeing service in Borneo, Lt Col Masters served in Vietnam as the seventh battery commander of the New Zealand Artillery Battery, a position he still held when the Battery returned to New Zealand in May 1971.

After retiring from the Army in April 1983 Lt Col Masters held several senior management roles in business.

“But he retained his interest in the Army and its soldiers; indeed in all veterans,” Mr Klitscher said.

“He was heavily involved in Rannerdale War Veterans home and was instrumental in raising substantial funds to allow the home to stay open and to be upgraded.

“His personal testimony to the Health Select Committee was crucial to breaking open the facts of exposure to chemicals during service in Viet Nam, thus enabling follow-up investigation into the matter to take place on a firm footing. He was subsequently a Trustee of the Viet nam Veterans and their Families Trust; and has also been a panellist assisting with War Pension applications.”

In 2002 Lt Col Masters was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM).

The award is a bronze statuette based on the famous Gallipoli image “Man with the donkey” and designed by official New Zealand Army artist Matt Gauldie.

What an excellent award concept, and a very worthy inaugural winner – noth for his service in Borneo, but also for his concern for the welfare of his fellow veterans.

A summary of how he won his military cross in Borneo is here. An extract:

Eventually the CSM struggled to his feet and they slowly and quietly moved off, John carrying the wounded CSM for about an hour and a half in short spells of five or ten minutes, until he was quite exhausted. They stopped and lay down for a planned hour’s rest but after a while, the CSM reached out for a stick and pulled himself to his feet and announced that he would try and walk for himself. Considering the obvious pain he was in and the blood loss, it was an amazing show of strength and will. Mind you, the CSM was no fool as he knew that John obviously couldn’t carry him all the way back to the border. John decided to take no chances and lashed the compass to his wrist so that it couldn’t be lost in the mud or swamp as they stumbled along.

By now it was early afternoon and the CSM managed to keep going until some time after 1600. John walked ahead with his weapon ready and compass permanently in his hand; he had made a conscious decision not to deviate from that bearing come what may. They rested briefly and then, as the CSM was all but out on his feet, John carried him for about another two hours. However progress was slow as the CSM was now in great pain and John’s strength was starting to fail him.

It took 54 hours for him to get out, and then go back in to recover the CSM. The CSM subsequently went on to father three sons.

We should be proud of the service of Lt Colonel Masters.

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