The Spirit of ANZAC

On 11 March 2009 Alan Price received the letter shown below via Bill Hardman, a former 4RAR member who is now a counsillor with the NSW RSL. Ms Monique Farmer, the Associate Editor of the New Zealand Sunday Star – Times sent the original letter to Don Rowe, the President of the NSW RSL. Bob Hardman then rang Alan, as they were already involved together in another project.
Dear Don,

Thanks very much for your time on the phone today.

As discussed, we are planning a very special story for Anzac Day 2009, a national celebration of a very important date. We are keen to find an Australian and a New Zealander who fought/worked together in either Vietnam or Korea, who perhaps kept in touch for a while but over the years have lost contact, and are keen to be reunited. It will be a powerful way for us to cover themes of the Anzac spirit of mateship and the bonds between Australians and New Zealanders. The reunion story will appear on the cover of one of our sections on April 19 - in-depth interviews with both men on their lives, their experiences together, the bonds and memories they share.

We have secured Pacific Blue as an airline partner, and they will fly the veteran and a friend to New Zealand for the interviews/photographs, plus we will sort accommodation and other expenses. We will also be aiming to get some TV and other media coverage of the reunion.
The Sunday Star-Times is a broadsheet national newspaper with a readership of nearly 600,000. It has the biggest reach of the Sunday newspapers in New Zealand and is a quality publication. It is probably most like the Sunday Age in look and feel, or the Saturday Sydney Morning Herald (where I worked for the last 17 years before moving to NZ, and why I called RSL NSW first!).
From the veteran story, we will then launch a competition for our readers where they can win a chance to be reunited with a long-lost mate across the Tasman - work colleague, childhood friend, sweetheart, family member. Undoubtedly there will be other great human interest stories that come from these trips.

I hope this is an adequate summary of what we have in mind. I really hope you can help us find a veteran who will enter into the spirit of this idea, and has a great story to tell.
I look forward to hearing back from you.
All the best,
Monique Farmer

Alan replied to Bill with the story below and Bill suggested that Alan contact Monique and Alan sent the following story to her.

Dear Monique,

My name is Alan Price and I am the President of the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (4RAR) Association ,Queensland, Australia.  My battalion served two tours in South Vietnam accompanied by the New Zealanders of Victor and Whiskey Companies RNZIR. We were officially called 4RAR/NZ (ANZAC).
I have heard from Don Rowe about your gracious offer via your email and submit the following for your consideration.

2Lt Reg Swarbrick an Aussie, was the platoon commander of a combined Ausssie and Kiwi Pioneer Platoon, Support Company, 4RAR/NZ (ANZAC) in South Vietnam from May 1971 to December 1971.

Approximately twelve months ago his former platoon sergeant, a Kiwi and Maori, Sergeant Tim Mangakahia, rang me and asked if I had a contact address for his old platoon commander, Reg Swarbrick. Tim had been searching for Reg on a casual basis for over thirty five years without success but finally was driven to conducting an all out search for his old boss and mate. Apparently they worked so well together that Tim Mangakahia wanted to restore his old friendship with Reg. In the meantime, Reg was looking for Tim in New Zealand without success.

I did not have Reg Swarbrick registered as a member at the time and spent approximately four weeks searching for him. I finally learned that he may have gone to New Zealand and it was thought that he may be working for The Athletes Foot chain of footwear stores somewhere in New Zealand. After searching the white pages in New Zealand I finally found Reg who informed me that he had been searching for Tim in New Zealand. I then passed contact details to both Reg and Tim and they spoke on the phone after some thirty seven years. I believe that a few tears flowed. Tim was crying when he rang me to thank me. I believe that I slept quite well that night! They have been in constant contact ever since but have not seen each other.

The irony of the story is that Tim the Kiwi, had moved to and is living in Queensland, Australia and Reg the Aussie, had moved to and is living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Not only that but one week prior to me discovering Reg, he had been in Brisbane, Queensland on a business trip, thus the delay in being able to contact him. If only I had been a little bit quicker on my toes!

I would recommend that these two gentlemen be considered for the award and what a wonderful gesture on the part of the Sunday Star-Times?

I have not contacted either Mr Mangakahia or Mr Swarbrick about this. I realise that there are others that are equally worthy of this award but I believe that this story is remarkable in itself.

Highest regards,

The good news is that Reg and Tim won the competition and Tim and his wife Ailsa, are on their way to Auckland on Thursday 02 April  to reunite their friendship with Reg and his family courtesy of the New Zealand Sunday Star-Times and the teamwork of the NSW RSL and the 4 RAR Association, Qld. They will be wined and dined on Thursday night, be involved in interviews on Friday and Tim and Ailsa will return to Australia on Saturday.

The 4 RAR Association, Qld sent a copy of the book “The Fighting Fourth”  to Monique for background research and the story of Reg and Tim will be published in the New Zealand Sunday Star-Times on 19 April ( <>). Monique also intends to send the story to the Sydney Morning Herald.

In the words of Bill Hardman when it was announced that Reg and Tim had won the competition, “Isn't it amazing how things work out. A string of circumstances with a result that will remind the public of what the true spirit of ANZAC is all about.”
Posted by : 4 RAR Association, Qld
Date posted : 2 April 2009
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