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A LIFE WELL LIVED – (Excerpts from WOGI Jack Donnelly’s Memoirs) – Part Twenty Major Ceremonial Events

Training for the charter parades, street marches and “changing of the Queens colour,” started in earnest. Although I co-ordinated a lot of it, I am so grateful for the support that I had from all the ships GI’s and first class gunnery rates for their expertise, and assistance they gave me throughout the 50th Anniversary. I was also blessed with the GI(Q)s course which was proceeding at that time, they were all involved in the training and organisation with me.

My next assignment was the Naval Fleet Review Parade in Auckland. I marked out the “Parade ground” on upper Queen Street outside the Auckland city council building at 0300 hours in the early hours of the morning. Both my pace stick and I marched the route to ensure all was accurate and ready for the big day. The heading in the NZ Herald the following day read, “City of sails becomes the city of sailors” with 7,000 sailors marching up Queen Street.

These major ceremonial events will never come again for me in my life time, but I am just so thankful to have been given the opportunity to be a part of them. It has been the biggest challenge that I had ever faced as a GI, and I learnt so much about myself. I was also proud of the way our Navy responded to putting their best foot forward when it was required. Finally to the Gunners who were part of the ceremonial team, I salute you all. Well done! In the 1991 Queens honours, I was awarded the BEM (British Empire Medal) for my planning and organisation of all aspects of ceremonial in the RNZN’s 50th celebrations and services to RNZN rugby. I also was awarded the CNS (Chief of Naval Staff) Commendation medal. They are honours which I still wear with pride today.

In December 1992 HMNZS Tamaki held its final parade before closing down and relocating to the north yard. It was a celebration of the history and times when we had been a part of the Vauxhall road establishment. It had been almost 30 years of training and learning that had made this Tamaki so special. I remember being the parade GI that day. When the parade was formed up ready to march onto Tamaki’s parade ground for the very last time, I gave the command; “Today we march into history…..By the left quick march!” I then stood “rooted to the spot” as they marched past me, many of them with expressions of sadness on their faces, it was one of those moments in your life that you never want to forget. That particular parade was special in the fact that we displayed many various ceremonial skills which had been developed over the past four years. To this day I have never returned to view that Tamaki and I never will, for me it is now passed into the annals of history.

February 1993, HMNZS Tamaki (North Yard) came into being. I was to be the first CPOGI of the Parade at the last of the three “Tamaki’s. It wasn’t the best environment for a Parade ground as it was in an open area, with no buildings surrounding it so that your voice could echo off them.

De commissioning ceremonies can be quite a flexible event if you wish it to be. In 1993 I was given the task to plan and organise the de commissioning of HMNZS Irrirangi. At that time I had 4th year apprentices at Tamaki having 2 periods a week of parade training and they had completed their parade syllabus. They were very confident, ‘cocky’ but likeable lads who just needed to be challenged at times. I decided that this course would be the guard of honour for Irrirangi as her ships company would not have enough time to train for what I had in mind. My plan was to have this guard fire 3 vollies as they marched down the roadway towards the saluting dais during their march past as a final salute to Irrirangi. Two days before the event myself, Galvin Davidson, Kim Hinaki and the 4th year apprentices headed south into the cold, barren lands of the NZ Army to be part of a very historical event for the Navy and Irrirangi.

Lieutenant Commander Tony Forsythe, whom I had known as a LWM (Leading Weapon Mechanic) had no problems with the idea stating that it would be a great statement to make with the Army presence. Just prior to the ceremony, the Army RSM, was not entirely convinced that it could be carried out with such precision. What he did not know was the psychology and determination of the sailor when challenged. The parade was a huge success and the crowd acknowledged by clapping the guard for their drill and accuracy. That night their ships company and our unlikely team of “tiffs” and “gunners” celebrated a job well done.

Thank you Jack for allowing us to share in your memories. I have had so many positive comments that I have decided to reproduce the memoirs in full. – Ed.

(to be continued)

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