Rt Hon Helen Clark
The Prime Minister of New Zealand
Hon Mark Burton
Minister of Veterans' Affairs
11 June 2001 Media Statement
Medallic grievances addressed
Prime Minister Helen Clark and Veterans' Affairs Minister Mark Burton today announced that a New Zealand Operational Service Medal (NZOSM) will be instituted to provide distinctive New Zealand medallic recognition for operational service.
Five specific medallic grievances have also been addressed.`
"There have been longstanding grievances about New Zealand policy on the issuing of medals for New Zealanders who have served overseas since World War Two," Helen Clark said.
"In recent months the government has asked its officials to consult with veterans' organisations on a comprehensive settlement of these issues. We believe that there should be proper public recognition of service on behalf of one's country and that the system of recognition must be seen to be credible, fair, and consistent.
"The NZOSM will be awarded to all personnel who have been on operational service since 1945, and to those who perform operational service in the future," Helen Clark said.
"It is to be awarded in addition to a New Zealand, Commonwealth, United Nations or other campaign medal recognising a specific period of operational service, such as Korea, or East Timor.
"The NZOSM is effectively a follow-on from the NZ War Service Medal 1939-45 which was awarded to all New Zealanders who served in World War Two, regardless of where they served.
"This decision recognises the strong wish of many veterans of post-WWII conflicts and UN peacekeeping missions to receive distinctive New Zealand medallic recognition for their service," Helen Clark said.
"Medallic grievances arising from five specific overseas operations have also been dealt with," Mark Burton said.
- The service of HMNZS Achilles and Gambia in Japanese waters in 1945-46
- Royal New Zealand Navy involvement in the Malayan Emergency 1948-60
- HMNZS Royalist involvement in the Suez Conflict 1956
- A range of unrecognised service in Vietnam
- Royal New Zealand Air Force service in Rwanda 1994.
"The primary purpose of medals is to provide a public recognition of service to one's country," Mark Burton said.
"Unfortunately, successive governments have ignored the sincerely held belief of personnel who believe their service had never been properly recognised.
"This government recognises the debt that all New Zealanders owe to our veterans and is pleased to address these medallic grievances," Mark Burton said.
Detail on the Specific Grievances
HMNZ Ships Achilles and Gambia in Japan 1945-46
Two New Zealand cruisers, GAMBIA and ACHILLES serviced in Japanese waters following the Japanese surrender on 2 September 1945 but before the March 1946 deployment of New Zealand's contribution to the occupation force – J Force and RNZAF 14 Squadron.
The two ships were tasked with "occupation duties". There service was, therefore, not merely incidental to the end of the war.
Personnel who served aboard GAMBIA and ACHILLES will now be offered the NZ Service Medal.
Royal New Zealand Navy Service during the Malayan Emergency 1948-60
RNZN ships were based in South-East Asia in the 1950s and at times supported operations against the insurgency in Malaya.
The Naval General Service Medal with the clasp "Malaya" was available for recognition of naval service during the Malayan Emergency. However, this was under strict criteria. The main qualification for this medal was 28 days service aboard ships involved in carrying troops or supplies to military operations, or bombarding suspected enemy positions.
Under these very specific criteria, no RNZN personnel qualified for the medal. In contrast, all army and airforce personnel in the operational area received medallic recognition.
The criteria for the NGSM with the clasp "Malaya" have now been relaxed, consistent with 28 days service patrolling off the coast. The operational area will be generously defined to ensure as wide as possible eligibility.
HMNZS Royalist during the 1956 Suez Conflict
During the 1956 Suez crisis the New Zealand cruiser ROYALIST was temporarily attached to the Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet. For several days ROYALIST was part of a potential invasion fleet, until she was withdrawn from the operational area.
Participation by the British forces in the Suez campaign was recognised and medals were sent to New Zealand, but were never issued to the crew of the ROYALIST and were subsequently disposed of. It is clear that the New Zealand government of the day did not wish to recognise participation in this widely criticised military operation.
This overlooked the primary reason for granting medals – to recognise the service of individuals involved in an operation.
The ROYALIST crew will now be offered the New Zealand General Service Medal, with the clasp "Near East".
Particular grievances from the Vietnam War include: aircrew flying support missions into and within Vietnam; accredited philanthropic organisations such as the Red Cross; embassy staff; and service after the cut-off date for the Vietnam Medal on 27 January 1973.
There were regular flights to and within Vietnam by RNZAF 40 and 41 Squadrons. Personnel were exposed to a varying degree of risks in an unpredictable war zone. They will now be offered the Vietnam Medal.
It is clear that accredited philanthropic organisations are covered by the Royal Warrant and should have been awarded the Vietnam Medal. The NZDF will follow up to ensure eligible personnel receive the award.
The awarding of the New Zealand General Service Medal, clasp "Vietnam", will rectify the other issues, including those personnel involved in the 1975 evacuation of Saigon.
RNZAF Service on Rwanda 1994
The 1994 genocide in Rwanda caused a massive refugee problem. As part of an international response, New Zealand deployed a RNZAF Hercules with 35 personnel to assist the UN in delivering relief supplies to refugees. The RNZAF detachment spent six weeks in Africa, mainly based in Uganda while flying into Rwanda and Zaire. The security situation was very unstable and the service was clearly beyond the demands of normal peacetime service. RNZAF personnel who served in Rwanda will now be offered the New Zealand General Service Medal, clasp "Rwanda".
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