Mel, resident at Bruce McLaren village, was born in April 1931, and grew up in a small village in Hertfordshire, UK called London Colney.
He left school aged 14 in April 1945 and went to work at an engineering firm.
“I had a works badge that said I was on war work and that entitled me to go to the front of bus queues and also to get an extra loaf of bread a week,” says Mel.
When he turned 18 he was exempted from doing the national service because he was working in a reserved industry, so he was able to finish his apprenticeship as a toolmaker.
He registered for national service at 21 and decided to join the Royal Air Force as a regular serviceman.
This was in 1952, during the time that Cold War tensions were building.
Mel began his basic training at Cardington in Bedfordshire before moving to Bridgnorth in Shropshire for military training.
He was then posted to Weeton, near Blackpool to train as an engineer on jet engines before being sent to Jever in northern Germany.
“There were three squadrons of de Havilland Vampire aircraft there and I was posted to No 4 Squadron.”
“The job of the station was to keep a flight of three aircraft in the air all the hours of daylight, fully armed.”
“Each plane had four 20mm cannons and they were ready to fire at any time.”
“This was a defence against any interference from the Russians.
They were made aware of these precautions and it was hoped that this would deter any action on their part.”
Mel was in the RAF for three years and wanted to re-enlist but was unable to due to medical reasons.
“I was still kept on reserve for another seven years but was not called up again.”
“I went to work at de Havillands making parts for Blue Streak guided missiles.”
In 1964 Mel moved with his wife Sheila and two boys to New Zealand, where he ran power stations first in Napier, then in Otara in Auckland.
He moved into Bruce McLaren Retirement Village when it opened in 2014.
Mel always attends the remembrance service held on Anzac Day and had a hat made to wear with his medals.
The Ryman Stories of Service tribute book is now published in time to commemorate Anzac Day.
The special commemorative books recall the wartime memories of 62 of our Ryman residents. We thank them for their contribution to the freedom we enjoy today.
The collection of residents' stories are remarkable and diverse and can be read online here.