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Anzac services hold special significance for Ryman residents

Written by Alan Wood
on April 24, 2024

Residents and guests have gathered at Anzac remembrance services held at Ryman villages around the country and across the Tasman to honour those who have served.

The Anzac events, including one at Anthony Wilding village in Christchurch today, allow residents to connect and reflect on New Zealand and Australia’s involvement in overseas service and pay tribute to individuals including their loved ones and family members.

The village events, which feature a wreath-laying and readings such as the Ode of Remembrance, allow the attendees to remember the contributions of those who served made to the freedom we enjoy today.

Ryman Healthcare’s Stories of Service book features recollections of residents who have been in the forces. The 2024 edition collates wartime and military memories of more than 50 men and women who were involved in conflicts like World War II, Vietnam and Malaya. The book is published in conjunction with Anzac Day.

At the Anthony Wilding village service, the former Air Force man who took on the responsibility of laying the Anzac wreath was Ken Austin. Ken, originally from England, was watched by a large group of residents in the moving afternoon event. David Julian, a padre from Burnham Military Camp led a prayer.

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During World War II, after youngster Ken Austin was evacuated from his street in Kent that was bombed, he saw aerial flybys and started dreaming of being a fighter pilot. He witnessed the impacts of enemy fire, but was inspired by Hawker Hurricane aircraft he saw flying very close to him.

While that strong desire was never realised, he did go on to serve in the Air Forces of three different countries including the UK’s Royal Air Force, the Sultan of Oman’s Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

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Featured in the book is Edmund Hillary Retirement Village resident Ross Johnson; a former New Zealand Air Force pilot who served in Singapore in the 1950s.

“We were using real, live armaments and we treated it very seriously indeed. One of the things we probably all felt aware of was, just a few years before [in WWII], young guys of our age were going out and getting killed and captured,” he recounts.

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Tongan-born John Santos migrated to New Zealand and was inspired by a pamphlet brought by a career advisor to St Paul’s Catholic School in Ponsonby which said: ‘Join the Navy and see the world’. John was amongst the last intake to Motuihe Island undertaking training in May 1963.

John, who lives in Keith Park village, did indeed see the world, saying a highlight was being sent by a Hercules aircraft to England to up HMNZS Blackpool to bring it back via the Suez Canal. A photo showing John amongst a group of Navy servicemen features on the front cover of Stories of Service 2024.

Please check out Stories of Service at this link:


About Ryman Healthcare:

Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies. The company owns and operates 45 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia which are home to more than 13,900 residents and the company employs 6,800 team members.

Media advisory: For further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Group Corporate Affairs Manager Silke Marsh on +64 27 294 3609 or Communications Advisor Maryvonne Gray on 027 552 0767.

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