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Media release March 1, 2016 – War hero honoured in Rangiora

Village named in honour of double Victoria Cross winner Charles Upham

 

Ryman Healthcare has named its latest village in honour of Kiwi war hero Charles Upham.

The new $100 million village Charles Upham Retirement Village in Rangiora is a tribute to the Cantabrian regarded as the greatest soldier New Zealand has produced.

Born in Christchurch in 1908, Charles Upham attended Christ’s College and Lincoln College before heading to war.

He was awarded the Victoria Cross – the Commonwealth’s highest award for bravery – twice for his supreme skills as a soldier and many acts of courage.

A superb tactician who knew how to get the best out of his men, Charles Upham was best known for heading out with a sack full of grenades to attack machine gun posts – often single handed.

Virginia Mackenzie, Charles Upham’s daughter, said it was an honour for the family.

“While my father would not have wanted to be singled out for the naming of the retirement village, I am sure he would be proud that a retirement village is named after a soldier of the 20th Battalion which was drawn from Canterbury and Westland.’’ 

Ryman Healthcare Managing Director Simon Challies said it was a privilege to acknowledge Charles Upham’s contribution.

“Charles Upham’s story is inspirational because he had all those qualities Kiwis love. He was shrewd, self-reliant, single-minded and focussed. He was also humble and didn’t like a fuss – so he probably wouldn’t have enjoyed this attention. We know it is a name that means a huge amount to generations of New Zealanders, and one we know our residents will be especially proud of.’’ 

The village’s logo includes a lion motif which is used on the Victoria Cross as a symbol of courage.

About Charles Upham:

Charles Hazlitt Upham was born in Christchurch in 1908 and worked as a shepherd and musterer before qualifying as a valuer.

When war broke out he volunteered and joined the 20th Battalion, training at Burnham.

Charles Upham became an internationally recognised hero after winning the Commonwealth’s highest honour for bravery – the Victoria Cross – twice. He is the only combat soldier ever to win two of the awards.

His first Victoria Cross was won in May 1941 when he was in charge of a platoon defending Maleme airfield in Crete. He led a number of attacks to protect his men and slow the German advance and fought on after being wounded. The raids he led were later described as “…remarkable exploits, showing outstanding leadership, tactical skill and utter indifference to danger.’’

His second Victoria Cross was awarded for five acts of gallantry in the battles at Minqar Qaim and Ruweisat Ridge in Egypt during July 1942. Once again he led a number of astonishing attacks against the enemy, with complete disregard for his own safety, and was wounded three times.

He was taken prisoner in Egypt and kept himself busy behind bars by becoming a serial escape artist and he was a constant irritant to his captors.

Charles Upham did not like the fame that came with his success. He always remained immensely modest, insisting that it was the work of his men that deserved praise, not him. When he learned he had won a second honour he said: “They shouldn’t give it to me. What about all the others? We all did exactly the same things. Why pick on me?’’

After the war he married Molly McTamney, a Red Cross nurse from Dunedin, and returned to New Zealand to farm and start a family. Charles and Molly had three daughters – Amanda, Virginia and Caroline. The couple farmed for more than 40 years at Conway Flat.

Charles Upham died in 1994 at the age of 86. The Mark of the Lion, the story of his exploits by Kenneth Sandford, became a bestseller in the 1960s.

About Charles Upham Retirement Village:

Residents are due to move into the first townhouses at Charles Upham Retirement Village later this month. The village on Oxford Rd is Ryman Healthcare’s 30th village, and will include 173 townhouses, 32 independent apartments, 96 serviced apartments, and care for up to 120 residents in its care centre. The care centre will include resthome, dementia and hospital care as well as assisted living for residents in its serviced apartments.

The village will also include resort facilities including a swimming pool, spa, movie theatre, library, beauty and hairdressing salons, and a bowling green.

About Ryman Healthcare: Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies.  The company owns 30 villages and serves 9,000 residents in New Zealand and Australia.  Each village offers a combination of retirement living and aged care.

Media advisory: For further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Corporate Affairs Manager David King on 03 366 4069 or 021 499 602.

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