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Soldier’s special visit

Haddon Donald surrounded by his children, (left) Robyn, Andrew, Anne and Fiona. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

By Chelsea Boyle

[email protected]

As the anniversary of the Battle of Crete was commemorated, people from across the country came to see the highest-ranking living New Zealand army officer of World War II in Masterton.

Haddon Donald served in the Battle of Crete 76 years ago, and Greek officials made a trip from Wellington to make sure they could make a special presentation to him at Club Wairarapa.

The presentation would not have been complete without cake and singing, as Mr Donald recently celebrated his 100th birthday in Masterton.

Masterton Returned and Services Association president Bob Hill said it was wonderful to see Mr Donald recognised, and lovely to see his son and daughters there celebrating with him.

“It’s just so wonderful to see a guy who is 100 years-old being able to get around and talk to people.”

And it was an important event to remember, over in Greece it would be the start of a four-day commemoration, Mr Hill said.

The people of Crete “paid a terrible price sheltering a lot of the New Zealanders after the German invasion”.

“There was one particular incident where they rounded up 25 from one village, put them in a firing squad and just shot them,” he said.

Lieutenant General Konstantinos Floros, Deputy Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff, meets 100-year-old war veteran Haddon Donald. PHOTO JADE CVETKOV
Lieutenant General Konstantinos Floros, Deputy Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff, meets 100-year-old war veteran Haddon Donald. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

“Just so the other people wouldn’t do it.

“But the Cretans wouldn’t tell the Germans where the New Zealanders were.”

Among the many people who came to pay their respects was a van load of people from the 28th Maori Battalion Association, which came all the way from Auckland.

War widow Joan O’Neill, whose husband served in the Battle of Crete, was also recognized by Greek officials at the event with a special presentation.

Mr Donald’s daughter Robyn Williams said her family felt humbled and honoured by the recognition he had been given and by all the people who came to see him.

“For the Deputy Chief of the Greek Armed Forces to make that trip all the way up from Wellington, on a cold, freezing day, was quite impressive,” she said.

Her father had spent a lot of time looking at the books he had been gifted, she said.

It was a day of mixed emotions.

“He thinks of Crete as being a pretty horrendous occasion.

“Nobody wants to be given accolades from something like a war,” she said, but he was lucky enough to be one of the ones who had kept a “calm cool head”.




  1. Congratulations with your 100th Birthday Mr Donald.

    The Greek/Crete Campaign was a costly one for the 2NZEF, Allies, and for the local population who helped the allies.

    I was on the West of Crete recently and the Cretans still remember the NZers.

    We are proud of you and your generation. Thank you.

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