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1955 Tragedy aligns pair

By Hayley Gastmeier

[email protected]

The sequel to a tragedy in New Caledonia 60 years ago played out for Masterton woman Rosamunde Mills this week.

Six decades ago Rosamunde watched a man die on the side of a road in Noumea after a car crash.

Rosamunde was raised in New Caledonia where her father was posted after World War II.

Ten years after the war ended in 1945 she attended an Anzac Parade, unveiling the Cross of Sacrifice, at the Bourail New Zealand War Cemetery.

Rosamunde attended the only college on the island and, originally from New Zealand, she taught the French school choir two hymns in English which were sung at the ceremony.

Being the only kiwi, she laid the wreath for all lost New Zealand soldiers.

Vivian Spencer and John Ensor, who both worked for the New Zealand Broadcasting Service, setting up gear to record a ceremony at Bourail Cemetery. The pair were killed in a car crash while travelling back to Noumea to broadcast the service. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Vivian Spencer and John Ensor, who both worked for the New Zealand Broadcasting Service, setting up gear to record a ceremony at Bourail Cemetery. The pair were killed in a car crash while travelling back to Noumea to broadcast the service. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

“On the way back to Noumea the bus I was in, full of children, was overtaken by a jeep,” Rosamunde said.

“As we rounded the corner there was the jeep, all in pieces, and two guys – they looked dead.

“We didn’t know what was going on. I was 15 at the time. This has haunted me for sixty-one years.”

On Anzac Day 2014 Rosamunde saw a documentary about the South Pacific’s involvement in WWII on Maori Television.

Sisters Georgina and Caroline Hallinan were talking about how their father had been killed in a car crash following the ceremony.

Rosamunde thought “that’s my past, I know that story”.

She found Georgina on Facebook and messaged her. The pieces in the puzzle took some time to come together.

“I heard nothing for over two years and then last week she found my message [in the ‘message request’ folder] and I got a reply.

“She was terribly excited.”

Yesterday Georgina and husband Rob, from Christchurch, visited Rosamunde and her husband, John, in Masterton to share their stories and have lunch.

Georgina’s father was Vivian Spencer, a Radio commentator for the New Zealand Broadcasting Service.

He had gone to Bourail to document the 10-year commemoration service with technician John Ensor.

The pair crashed while driving the 160km to Noumea to broadcast the ceremony tapes to New Zealand.

“My father was killed outright, and the technician was taken to hospital in Noumea and died six weeks later,” said Georgina, who was four at the time.

“Obviously that was a crucial event in my life, it changed my family completely.

“To meet someone who was on the bus and saw it happen is amazing.

“I didn’t even know about the bus.”

3 COMMENTS

  1. How well I remember this sad time in the Spencer family. Thinking of Mrs S, Caroline, Hugh, Georgina and their families as I read this

  2. That is amazing- how satisfying for all of you to meet and know how it happened- and the daughters of the ‘stranger’ who was killed!

  3. what a story, now they can be great friends.. surprising how life comes to life like this and other ways, but great to share it thank you.

Comments are closed.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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