Topic: NZ Defence Force - Te Ope Kātua

Repatriated personnel receive warm welcome home

By Talisa Kupenga

Twenty seven personnel and one child repatriated from Malaysia and Singapore received a warm welcome home from family at Auckland airport today. 

Those repatriated died in Malaya, Thailand and Vietnam between 1955 to 1971.

It was a long awaited return of loved ones buried overseas.

This is the second and largest tranche of repatriations expected this year.  They arrived this morning from Kuala Lumpur; it is understood eight personnel are Māori.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says, "To see them returned home and to see their families welcome them home was incredibly moving."

Veteran Paul Thomas has fought more than forty years to bring brother Adrian home.  He was SAS and the first to be killed in action in Malaya in 1956.

He says, “Today is the happiest day I’ve had since 1976.”

1976 is the year Thomas' mother made him promise to bring his brother back.

Thomas says, "Adrian had a big rapport with our grandmothers and grandfathers and everybody wanted him brought home, now he's home so it's huge."

Defence Minister and Veterans Minister Ron Mark says, "[There is] a debt of gratitude to Paul and others and there is a list of names- all of those people should be thanked.”

Ardern says, “I met some of the family members who have long advocated for this day so, doubly emotional for them that it has been such a long time, a long struggle and of course the grief of finally having their family members home."

Adrian will return to Northland tomorrow and the others will return to their various resting places across the country.