12 December 2016
Media release December 12, 2016
Family open village named in honour of North Canterbury hero
Charles Upham Retirement Village has been officially opened by the war hero’s three daughters.
Amanda Upham, Virginia Mackenzie and Caroline Reynolds joined with more than 200 residents and guests for the opening party at the $100 million Ryman Healthcare village on Oxford Rd on December 9.
The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Charitable Trust provided a guard of honour as a tribute to New Zealand’s finest combat soldier, and Dame Malvina Major performed an opening concert for residents.
Born in Christchurch in 1908, Charles Upham volunteered when war broke out and joined the 20th Battalion.
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 in Crete and Egypt. No other combat soldier has ever been awarded the Queen’s highest honour twice.
Virginia McKenzie, Charles Upham’s daughter, said the naming was a great honour.
“My father never liked to be singled out for praise. However, we agreed to this because we think he would have liked that the village will benefit families from the Canterbury and Westland regions where the 20th Battalion was drawn from.’’
Ryman Healthcare Deputy Chief Executive and CFO Gordon MacLeod said Charles Upham was a selfless hero, a great leader and a man who always put others first.
“His story is inspirational – Charles Upham was a great New Zealander. Not only did he put his life on the line countless times, he always put the welfare of his men first. As well as our finest soldier he was also an extremely kind man, who was loved by his fellow soldiers. The name Charles Upham means a huge amount to our residents, and this village will ensure his name is remembered and his story is told for generations to come.’’
Alan Burgess, one of the last remaining survivors of the 20th Battalion, said it was great to see the village named after Charles Upham.
“Inspirational is the only word for Charles Upham. The fellas who served with him always said he had no fear. Nothing seemed to bother him. When you talked to him he was he was just a farmer, a typical Kiwi fellow. He had a very good vocabulary!’’
The village’s logo includes a lion motif which is used on the Victoria Cross as a symbol of courage.
About Charles Upham
Charles Hazlett 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, spending the rest of the war in prisoner of war camps in Italy and Germany including the notorious Colditz Castle. He kept himself busy by becoming a serial escape artist and was a constant irritant to his captors.
His coolness under fire, his ability to take bold but calculated risks and complete indifference to danger won the highest praise. But Charles Upham always remained immensely modest, insisting that it was the work of his men that deserved praise and not anything he had done.
Charles Upham always despaired of the attention he was given. 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 he had become engaged to in 1938, 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
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 10,000 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.