By Roger Childs
This is a combat zone, Sir, and you are running around in shorts and a T shirt. American officer to a New Zealand air force officer in Somalia 1993
A man of many parts
He is an expert in court mounting medals and sings in a local choir. He is also the key figure in developing and maintaining the Royal New Zealand Engineers Museum at the Linton Army Camp. Furthermore, he is an author on military subjects and arranges a regular programme of talks on military history at the museum.
The last of these was about Operation Samaritan: a little known 1993 multi-national expedition involving the RNZAF, working for the United Nations (UN) in war-torn Somalia.
The New Zealand Korea Roll
This is Howard’s latest book.
Did granddad serve in the New Zealand Armed Forces during the Korean War, the conflict that spanned 1950 to 1953 and through the Armistice period to 1957? This roll lists the names of the men who did, providing brief details about their service and where possible the medals they would have been issued or been entitled to have received. Howard Chamberlain
This record of those who served, is the result of many years’ painstaking research and has involved contact with many of the veterans. As well as the list of personnel, it includes
- some firsthand reminiscences
- snippets of information about this still unresolved conflict
- details of Royal Warrants and Regulations
- appendices listing medals which were awards for action on land and sea.
Howard’s book is subtitled Honouring Those Who Served in the New Zealand Armed Forces in Korea 1950-1957.
Understandably the ranks of the veterans are thinning with the passing years and even though every effort has been made to ensure the integrity and accuracy of the material there may be minor omissions and errors. As one veteran observed: 50 years is a long time and the memory is a little hazy.
A lifetime of service and devotion to the museum
- trained at Papakura and Linton
- served in the 1960s in Malaya and Borneo during the confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia
- was an Engineer Instructor at Linton
- took responsibility for looking after the Engineers Corps historical materials.
His fascination with military history ultimately led to opening of the RNZE Corps Memorial Museum in 1982. Since 1968 he has been the honorary curator of the museum.
This ever growing collection of historical material was recently visited by the Chief of General Staff, who was very impressed. No doubt Howard pointed out that they could use more space for the growing collection of artifacts, exhibits and archives which include features on the New Zealand Wars to our involvement in Afghanistan.
Operation Samaritan: Somalia 1993
This is an aspect of New Zealand’s peace keeping work with the United Nations which is little known. Squadron Leader Paul Harrison, who has since retired to the Kapiti Coast, was Public Relations Officer for this RNZAF involvement in war-torn Somalia from January to May 1993.
No-one knows more about what happened, because the media were not invited to this very dangerous part of the world at that time. His recent talk at the museum was fascinating.
New Zealand had a detachment of three Andover planes as part of this 13 nation UN expedition which involved 13,000 troops.
The government of Somalia had disintegrated in early 1993 and warlords ruled the country where boundaries of control kept moving; pillaging, skirmishing and drug trafficking was rife and hundreds of thousands of civilians were displaced. The population of the capital Mogadishu, normally about 1.65 million tripled, and the UN moved in to try and prevent a humanitarian disaster.
Essentially, the Kiwis were responsible for flying missions (light in-theatre tactical support), to the south of the country where most of the UN forces were involved in trying to keep order.
Over 60 New Zealand personnel were involved, and during the five months
- 233 missions were flown; usually two a day on Kiwi Star
- 7600 passengers were taken south from the capital
- 155,000kg of freight was delivered
- Over 1 million leaflets were dropped.
The capital was a battlefield for two warlord groups and was an incredibly dangerous place. The allied forces stationed there, which included the entire New Zealand contingent, were located at the heavily defended airport. Because of the danger to aircraft over the city, all flights, regardless of wind direction, took off towards the sea and landed from over the sea.
Law and order, were non-existent. Paul Harrison gave examples of the extent to which government had broken down:
- any allied vehicles venturing into the city were heavily armed and never stopped
- a boy stole some gear off a Canadian truck and immediately a knife fight broke out
- there were fire-fights at night
- warlord soldiers were often drugged out of their minds
- bodies often went unburied at the cemeteries
- there was an arms market open most days from 10 to 2
- the downtown area was destroyed and anything that could be sold was stripped from buildings: wire, scrap metal, furniture.
The camps were dismantled in May 1993 as the Kiwis prepared to come home. The tent canvas was burnt because if it had been given to the locals there would have been a war!
If anyone would like to contact Howard about
- his book on Kiwis in Korea
- the RNZE Museum in Linton
- future lectures on military history
- court mounting of medals
- military history research