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Badge in Gold a Rare Honour
Corporal Willie Apiata VC has remained constantly in the public eye since his VC was announced in July this year.
He said he has never “got used to it”, the attention, but the observer would never see that he is other than perfectly at ease and quite relaxed despite being the point of aim of every camera within cooee.
“I’m taking things one day at a time. I’ve had a lot of support from the people at work and I’m very grateful to the defence force and the unit for its support to myself and my family to deal with the pressures. I’m back into normal work now. It was always the CO’s intention that that would be the case.” CPL Apiata said.
He was speaking to RSA Review in the Gallipoli Room at ANZAC House on Armistice Day, 11 November, where he had been presented with the RNZRSA’s supreme award, the Badge in Gold. He received the award from Governor General Anand Satyanand in front of a photographic gallery of NZ VC winners and watched by an audience of senior officers, NZDF and foreign, diplomats, HQ RNZRSA staff and members of the RNZRSA National Executive Committee.
Earlier the Governor-General had unveiled a plaque bearing the Badge in Gold and words:
"On Remembrance Day 11 November 2007, HE The Hon Anand Satyanand PCNZM QSO Governor General unveiled this symbolic award of the highest honour of the Royal New Zealand Returned And Services' Association (Inc) the Badge in Gold to those members of the New Zealand Armed Forces awarded the Victoria Cross and presented the Badge in Gold and Life Membership of the RNZRSA to Corporal Willie Apiata VC."
His Excellency said it is fitting that the RNZRSA should invest CPL Apiata with the Badge in Gold should also posthumously honour all those New Zealanders who have received the VC.
RNZRSA National President Robin Klitscher welcomed everyone and gave a brief outline of the history behind the Badge in Gold. “It is appropriate that we are standing in a building called ANZAC House and in a room called the Gallipoli Room. It's also fitting that we have on the walls reminders of some of the things that make us the nation we are.” The RNZRSA had lasted 91 years but was still needed because we were still creating veterans. “But, even if that were not so, it would still be needed “as a guardian over the memory of the events that took so many New Zealanders, to such distant places”.
He spoke of the gallery of New Zealand VC recipients displayed in the room and said, “One of our purposes here today is to add another symbol to their presence — the RNZRSA's Badge in Gold, given to this group collectively. . . and to CPL Willie Apiata . . . in person.”
Mr Klitscher spoke of the monarchs, princes, military leaders, governors general, prime ministers and RSA leaders who had held the award and of the first and only woman recipient, Nancy Wake.
He said there are eight living holders: HRH Prince Philip; Sir Michael Hardie Boyes; Nancy Wake; Jim Tait; David Cox; Robert McCombe; Colin Topp; and Willie Apiata.
In 87 years of existence the Badge in Gold has been awarded just 64 times,
which makes it very rare. It is awarded for service to the RSA movement
and to those persons eligible for membership of the RSA who have rendered
signal service to RNZRSA or to New Zealand or to the Commonwealth.
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