Together Murray and Ann Evans spent a combined 28 years plus service with the Royal New Zealand Air Force and NZ Army.
Murray joined the RNZAF in January 1958, as a 16-year-old ‘boy entrant’, while wife Ann joined the Air Force in 1968. Eventually, their service brought them together while they were both at the RNZAF Station Te Rapa.
Murray says joining straight out of high school meant he really didn't know what hit him. After his 18 months of initial recruit training, he was posted to do his first 12 months of service in Wigram, Christchurch.
Then he was transferred up to No 1 Stores Depot, Te Rapa in Hamilton, which held all the spare parts for the air force aircraft. “We were commonly known as grocers; our trade was equipment and supply,” he says.
Ann started her service in Wigram in Christchurch, having lived in Papakura in Auckland.
“A friend talked me into joining the air force, so I went in and joined and went down to Wigram in Christchurch for my recruit training, and then was transferred to ASDA (Aeronautical Supply Depot Auckland) in Hobsonville,” Ann says.
“They then transferred me down to Porirua in Wellington as the air force was operating a new computer mainframe system, which was bigger than our house. As a data processor, I operated the NCR33 accounting machine.”
In 1970, Murray was transferred to RNZAF Air Movements at Wellington Airport for four years in charge of all military aircraft flying in and out of Wellington.
“The first two weeks I was there, one of our Bristol Freighter aircraft came in on its regular run,” Murray remembers.
“The freighter missed the turn off to the hangar, and was cleared to ‘backtrack’. “Unfortunately, his main landing gear found a soft spot where recently new runway lights had been installed. This resulted in the airport being closed for a short while the aircraft was ‘cleared’.”
In the early 70s Ann was transferred to Woodbourne, Blenheim, to run the accounting Machines. By this time, she’d been promoted to Sergeant and was also in charge of the air-women's barracks as well as the machine room.
To visit Murray in Wellington, the base aircraft used to fly from Blenheim over to Wellington. If there was a space Ann would hop on to visit Murray in Wellington for the weekend.
“I left the Air Force in 1971 and came over to Wellington and worked there until Murray finished his term at Air Movements. We were married in ‘74 and had two children, both of which now live in Australia,” Ann says.
Murray remembers that in 1972 while at Air Movements, the air force was asked to help with a shipment of pedigree bulls that had arrived from France which had to go into quarantine on Somes Island. The 3 Squadron Iroquois helicopters lifted about 50 bulls off the ship that they were on and put them on the island. This was called ‘Operation Bull Ship’.
Murray says in the mid 70s he was transferred to an operational role to support aircraft operating overseas. These included Bristol Freighters, the C130 Hercules from 40 Squadron, and 42 Squadron which included Douglas DC3s and Hawker Siddeley Andover aircraft. He was also in involved with ‘air drop’ support. One heavy load flight was a 39,000 ton generator dropped into Rarotonga.
He and the team ended up going some interesting places. “We went to Australia, Kathmandu, Burma, the UK, most of the Pacific Islands, Papua New Guinea, Hawaii, the Azores, Antarctica, Singapore, Bangladesh, India,” Murray says.
“Our team flew to assist the Squadron whenever when they were away overseas on operational exercises. The main one being 75 Squadron Skyhawks to Singapore and Malaysia.
“The C130’s would fly with them to Singapore, and Malaysia with all the squadron support equipment, come home and then 8-10 weeks later we'd recover them back to NZ.”
Murray made two trips to Kathmandu in support of Sir Edmund Hillary and the school and hospital trust he set up there.
“There were also relief support flights following cyclone and earthquake events around the Pacific islands, which also included Cyclone Tracey in Darwin 1974...,” he says.
“Our team played a big part with Operation Deep Freeze support in both Antarctica and Christchurch. This included the movement of freight and personnel to and from McMurdo and around the continent.”
Some of Murray’s roles included loadmaster support with the US Navy Hercules to outlying scientific locations and a South Pole station.
During this time he was transferred back to RNZAF Base Auckland at Whenuapai as a warrant officer in charge of air movements.
Murray says he stayed in the service until the end of 1979, to complete 22 years of RNZAF service. “Six months later, I was asked if I wanted to enlist in the NZ Army. They had just completed restructuring the service corps and because I'd just come off operational movements logistics support – they were interested in my experience,” he says.
“The next thing I knew, I was back in a green uniform, and they transferred me to Christchurch... which again saw me involved in Antarctic support.”
Following a 25-year service career, Murray took on a second career of 27 years in the oil and gas industry. He finally retired in 2010.