~ 18762 DONALD NEIL REED – RNZN ~
In October 2018 a message on the Medals Reunited New Zealand FACEBOOK page arrived from Lorraine “Raine” Stewart of Auckland. The message said “I would like to find the owner of this medal. The name is 18762 WMEM D N REED. Been in our possession for years yet have no idea who it belongs to. It needs to find its rightful owner. Hope you can help.” A photograph was attached.
The medal was a Royal New Zealand Navy Long Service & Good Conduct Medal. I contacted Raine who related to me how she came to have the medal in her possession.
During the 1970s and 1980s Raine’s parents lived at Beachlands in Auckland and for a number of years had a friend and boarder named “Burt” staying with them. Burt had a self-contained flat that was attached to the house which gave him the independence and privacy to come and go as he wished. Burt was a City Council employee who worked at the Whitford Tip. He would often come home with bits and pieces (treasures?) he had found in the course of his work. Burt eventually moved on in the 1990s. After Raine’s father passed away, her mother decided in 2002 to put the house up for sale so she could move to a more manageable place. Raine was helping her mother pack the house contents in preparation for the move. As she was clearing a cabinet she spotted the medal and asked her mother if she knew whose it was? Her mother said she thought it might have been Burt’s, and so Raine said she would hold on to it in case he returned looking for it. If not, Raine would try to find him to return the medal.
Burt never returned, had left no forwarding address and Raine frankly had no idea where he had gone or even how to start looking for him. She put the medal in a container of old coins she had collected over the years and there it stayed, barely noticed as the years rolled by. After each successive move to new flat or house, Raine said she would go through all her stuff as she packed and invariably come across her coins and the medal, only to be re-reminded each time that she needed to do something about finding the owner. Perhaps it hadn’t been Burt’s medal after all, maybe it had belonged to a family member, after all her father had been a soldier during WW1 – was it his she wondered? Raine was sure her mother would have said if it had been her fathers. If not either her fathers or Burt’s medal, could Bert have found it at the Whitford Dump?
Back went the medal with the coins until the next time she came across it. It wasn’t until several years later that Raine notice the name – 18762 WMEM D N REED ~ HMNZS CANTERBURY – stamped into the edge of the medal. She correctly concluded it was the owner’s name, whomever he might be?
Growing up, Raine had never thought too much about the importance of Anzac Day or attending the Dawn Parade. It was only much later when she was in her twenty’s, after he father had died, did it true meaning sink in. Her father had been a WW1 veteran and as time went by Raine committed to honouring her father‘s service and sacrifice by regularly attending the Dawn Parade and Anzac Days services with her father’s grandchildren. During these times, the memory of the medal would also come back to her and as she said to me, she would reflect, wondering who the person was that the medal belonged to? Raine knew of the Navy’s war ship “Canterbury” that had been in service not that long ago, and wondered if the person named on the medal was even still alive? The medal might be special to the owner, or to that person’s family; perhaps it had been a valued heirloom that had been accidentally lost, or inadvertently collected up with rubbish and dumped? I think most people can all identify with having lost something of value in this manner. As each Anzac Day came around, Raine would be reminded to try and find the medal’s owner. But as with most folks who find themselves in a similar situation, she had no idea where to start looking and so the medal was left in the tin of coins, to be addressed at some other time. By the time Raine finally decided to do something about finding the owner, not even her mother was around to help with information or possibilities, and presumably Burt had also passed away.
Raine held on to the medal for nearly 20 years. In 2019 she came across MRNZ’s FACEBOOK page which spurred her on to send me a message and a photograph of the medal. Raine followed up and posted the medal to MRNZ and after receiving our letter confirming the medal arrived safely, she promptly forgot all about it ….. sixteen months later Raine received a call from me.
Interpreting the inscription
Raine Stewart’s quandary of where to start looking for the owner, was also mine. To date I have only dealt with UK base descendants for a couple of Royal Navy and Mercantile Marine medals. Obtaining information for these was much easier than it was going to be for the LS & GC Medal since they had bee First World War medals for which there was considerably more information on-line to assist researchers. The problem for contemporary issued medals like the LS & GC and those awarded during the inter-war period, is that detailed information generally requires either a visit to the National Archive where the record is held as files post WW1 are not yet digitised and available on-line, or the permission of the service person if still alive. The first is not always practical in NZ let alone going to the UK. In this case the second was out of the question …. that was the question! Unfortunately much of the information previously freely available on Ancestry and other similar sites, is now only viewable by subscription or a ‘pay per view’ basis. The information has been sold to private profit-driven organisations for re-sale through such websites as: ‘Forces War Records’, ‘FindMyPast.com’ and ‘Ancestry.com’ etc.
Had been alive in 1981 and living in Manurewa, employed as a Factory Manager. Despite that promising start, everything then came to a grinding halt. No records on Ancestry beyond 1981.
The NZDF could not assist at this point because as far as they knew, the recipient could still be alive and therefore were bound by the Privacy Act 1993 which prohibits certain key information being divulged. This effectively stops the researcher knowing any details regarding a persons current whereabouts or that of their family, knowing the names and dates of birth of children, parents etc – such is the law and the constraints of the Act.
I had to take a different approach. After I had rounded up what was available on-line (which wasn’t much) I needed to find out exactly what the owner did in the navy – from the medal his rank and trade was WOMEM (or more correctly WOMEMech). As I discovered this combination of rank and letters is no longer in use. The military seems to make a habit of changing and re-arranging functional / trade titles every few years which is very hard to keep pace with. WOMEM stands for: Warrant Officer Marine Engineering Mechanician (now known simply as: Marine Technician), or to you and I, someone who maintains and fixes boat motors.
WARNING: When one is making reference to naval vessels and a sailor is within earshot, using the correct etiquette will save you a keel-hauling. When conversing with a sailor, should you utter the words “boat” in referencing their ship, or refer to a ship as “it”, you will very likely feel the verbal points of Old Neptune’s trident. As the sailor cringes at the word and goes into spasms of exasperation, he will recover just long enough to educate you (in words of one syllable) as to why their “ship” is NOT a “boat” and their ship is a “SHE” and not an “IT.”
Why a ship is a “She”
When referring to ships or boats be sure to observe the correct etiquette – they are both referred to as females – “she.” Why? This ancient tradition relates to the idea of a female figure such as a mother or goddess, guiding and protecting a ship and crew. As a sailor will tell you if asked the question (i.e. in pre-sexist speak) – “Ships are referred to as ‘she’ because, like a woman, a ship is unpredictable” and, “it takes an experienced man to handle her correctly because without a man at the helm, she is absolutely uncontrollable” so, you need to “love her, take good care of her, and she shall take good care of you.”
When is a Ship not a Boat ?
A ship is a “she” but so is a boat, but while a boat is a “she” and so is a ship, a ship is not a boat and a boat is not a ship.” Got it? “She” can be any vessel that floats, whether designed to be powered by oar or engine. Referencing “She” as a ship is based on experience and relates to her relative size (not tonnage). A ship is generally a larger vessel like a corvette, frigate, destroyer, cruiser, dreadnought, aircraft carrier, troop ship, passenger liner, bulk carrier, container ship etc. A boat however could be as large as a ferry, a launch, water taxi, yacht, pleasure boat, gin palace … or as small as dinghy or canoe.
Layman’s Rule of Thumb: Size tends to be the benchmark in defining a ship and a boat. A ship is a vessel that is large enough onto which (theoretically) you can fit boat, i.e., you can fit a boat onto a ship, but not a ship onto a boat. A ship has a captain and permanent crew: a boat does not. I digress….
Who is D.N. REED ?
Having deciphered the meaning of the trade initials I then did the obvious and went on-line to see if the name was connected to any site on the internet ? – no response to his name alone. I tried the Naval Museum at Torpedo Bay, Auckland ? – no results. What I desperately needed was the sailor’s first names. The NZDF Personnel Archives staff were permitted to tell me that the initials D.N. stood for “Donald Neil” and confirmed his Service Number, with a minor variation. By the time Don Reed left the RNZN in 1980, the NZDF service numbering system had been modified by prefixing all service numbers with an alphabetical letter. Mr Reed’s number had the prefix letter “R”, thus his was R-16782. This change was made after he was awarded his Long Service & Good Conduct Medal, hence, there is no letter shown on the medal.
The big task was now to connect the medal name to someone who theoretically could be anywhere in the world, alive or dead?
Now hear this – “MAN OVERBOARD”
I scoured Ancestry.com – nothing useful there, or available after 1981 (records limit). The last Electoral Roll to contain a reference to Donald Reed and his then wife, Lois Shirley Reed, showed them as living at 26 Ewbank Place in Manurewa. His stated occupation was that of “Factory Manager.” while Don was untraceable at that stage I did manage to trace his parents (both of whom were deceased) but beyond this, there was no apparent siblings or other connections I could follow up. My last check under these circumstances is always a nation-wide cemetery search, just in case – nothing there, so my thoughts inclined towards the possibility of him having emigrated, the obvious being Australia, maybe England, in fact anywhere, who would know? – but how could I find out? With no fixed lines upon which to search I felt my only real hope was former naval colleagues or an acquaintance who had known Don. Although it had been more than 40 years since Don left the Navy, there had to be someone in the ex-naval community who knew of him post his navy career and hopefully of his whereabouts.
Accordingly I join the various Ex-RNZ Navy Members Face Book pages in order to post notices that I was looking to make contact (available only to members). I posted a “MAN OVERBOARD” notice requesting any information regarding Don or his family’s whereabouts, alive or dead. After six weeks I received one response which gave me some initial hope. A former sailor on one of the web pages sent me a message telling me of a reunion that had been held for the former members of H.M.N.Z.S. Canterbury in September 2018 at the Mt Maunganui RSA. I made some calls and tracked down the former Secretary of the Reunion Committee in Tauranga, hoping against hope that Don may have attended? The Secretary could not recall but was fairly sure Don had not attended – he would check the roll of attendees. The Secretary did not know him personally and several others he contacted from the reunion could not help. What I thought would have been a relatively easy question to resolve from the reunion participants given they had all served on the same ship as Don, and Warrant Officer Marine Engineers are not exactly a prolific mustering, clearly was not as easy as I anticipated. After trying a few suggested phone numbers passed to me, unfortunately I struck out in every case – nothing, zero, zip, nada! I then emailed a couple of ex-RNZ Navalmen I knew. One recalled Don by his nickname of “Donna Reed” (after the popular TV show that screened in NZ in the 1960s) as he served with “Donna” on HMNZS Royalist for a short period between 1960-1964, but had not seen or heard of him in years. This did not bode well for my search? I re-posted my “MAN OVERBOARD” message on the relevant ex-Navy FB pages twice more in the following months – same result, nothing. It was time to shelve this medal case for the present … there were others waiting that needed attending to. That was in mid-2019.
Out of the blue…
On the day prior to Anzac Day 2020, quite out of the blue, I received a Text Message from none other than “Donna Reed”. Don had received an email from a former RNZN sailor who Don barely remembered. Peter Jensen had seen one of my “Man Overboard” messages some four months after it was first posted. Thankfully the ‘old sea salt’ network was alive and well. Peter had known Don from many years ago and that he was in Australia. Peter had manged to send him an email to tell him he was a ‘wanted man.’
After introducing ourselves, I asked Don how and when he had lost his long service medal, he said,”…. as to when I lost the medal, I cannot remember and never thought much more about it after I left the Navy in March 1980. I have never bothered to have it replaced. I would have thought that it was accidentally left in one of the uniforms that I disposed of in 1980. As I had no real need for the medal I hadn’t had to look for it – I wasn’t even aware of it missing for many years. It was not until a couple of years ago when I found the miniature RNZN dress medal, that it occurred to me the main medal was not around.”
But that wasn’t the end of matter. I asked Don what other medals he had – other than his Long Service & Good Conduct medal, none he said. I said it was highly likely he would be entitled to a medal or two in light of the range of recently introduced medallic awards since 2002. Don wasn’t aware of these. To be fair, while Don had been surprised his LS & GC medal had turned up, he wasn’t overly fussed about applying for any others. His reasoning was he had been out of the Navy so long, he now had no need for them and frankly had been far too busy managing, inventing, building and running businesses for corporates and ventures of his own. I made inquiries anyway with NZ Defence Forces’s Personnel Archives & Medals administrators on Don’s behalf in case he changed his mind.
I received a phone call – Don was interested in any medal entitlement. “Commodore Bungendore” (Don’s wife) counselled the sailor on that folly with a word in his shell like ear, and ‘encouraged’ him to revise his thinking on the matter. Not one to be pushed around by a ‘Commodore’, Don snapped his heels together, saluted the Commodore and completed an application form in anticipation. He also took the time to furnish me with some of his service and civilian history before and after his RNZN service which I have summarised below.
Joining the “Senior Service”
Donald Neil REED was born in 1942 at Paeroa, the son of Neil Callum REED (Morrinsville, 1914 –1964, Pukekohoe), a civil servant, and Olga Franca MARTINOVICH (Tokatoka, Kaipara 1918 –1984 ).**
Olga Reed’s parents were Franko MARTINOVICH and Lukre “Lucy” ZUVICH. Olga’s father Frank came from Brac Island off the coast of Dalmatia and had emigrated to Auckland in 1901. In September 1907 Frank’s bride to be, Lukre Zuvich, arrived in Auckland. Three days after her arrival Frank and Lukre married, caught the train to Helensville and boarded the steamer Te Kopuru bound for Northland. On arrival at Dargaville, the Martinovich’s were warmly welcomed into Northland’s Dalmatian kauri gum-digger community. Frank and Lukre did it tough while settling in and getting themselves established. The lived in a shack at the Kapakapa Swamp while working long hours in the Aoroa gum fields.
Following her husband Neil Reed’s death in 1964, Donald’s mother Olga re-married in 1966 to Arthur Sydney QUEENIN (Rawene, Hokianga 1929 –1989, Auckland). Olga Queenin predeceased husband Arthur by five years in 1984, aged 66 years.
Donald, known to all as Don, attended Pukekohoe Primary School from 1947 –1953 before completing his secondary education at Pukekohe High School from 1954 –1957.
Note: ** Don’s Grand Mother, Lucy Martinovich, starred in an episode of the 1976 TVNZ documentary series “Encounter” in which she appeared as Lucy Martinovich and in which her Dalmatian origins and her 12 children were featured in the story of the history and the lives of Northland’s gum-diggers. The documentary can be viewed here: https://www.nzonscreen.com/title/encounter-i-think-i-go-to-nz-1976
Seventeen year old Donald Neil Reed enlisted in the Royal New Zealand Navy as a Seaman Boy in January 1960. Don was keen on becoming a Marine Engineer but before he could begin any trade training, he had to complete four months of gruelling basic military (recruit) training to learn that was only one way, and that was the ‘navy way.’ Ab initio RNZN training was conducted aboard HMNZS Tamaki. Tamaki was a naval base or what is commonly referred to as a ‘stone’ ship or frigate.** In this case the 179 ha Motuihe Island, also known as ‘The Rock’, was the home of HMNZS Tamaki where all initial seaman training was conducted for sailors enlisting into the RNZN. Motuihe Island is about 13 kilometres north of Devonport in the Hauraki Gulf. Commissioned in 1941, HMNZS Tamaki conducted this training until withdrawn from the island in 1963 and relocated to the naval base, HMNZS Philomel (also a ‘stone’ ship) which is the administrative headquarters of the Royal New Zealand Navy. Other forms of advanced RNZN technical and non-technical training continued to be taught out at HMNZS Tamaki until the ‘ship’ (naval base) was decommissioned in 2000 and returned to the Crown. It is now managed as a recreational reserve by the Department of Conservation.
Note: ** A ‘stone ship’ is an informal euphemism used to describe any naval establishment that is land-based. The term has its origin in Britain’s Royal Navy after its use of Diamond Rock (off Martinique, a French territorial Caribbean island that is part of the Lesser Antilles), as a ‘sloop of war’ to harass the French. As the Royal Navy was prohibited from ruling over land, so the land was commissioned as a ‘ship’ and accordingly the island was named HMS Diamond Rock.
HMS ~ HMNZS Philomel
When the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy was formed in 1921 at Devonport, Auckland, an old battle cruiser was gifted to the New Zealand government to become a training base for sailors sent to serve on Royal Navy ships. HMS Philomel had seen active service in both the Boer and First World Wars, of her almost thirty years of service since her keel was laid down in 1890. In 1919, with her engines and armaments removed, HMS Philomel was decommissioned before being moored semi-permanently at the Admiralty Reserve adjacent to Devonport Naval Dockyard. There she lay as a slowly deteriorating training facility for the best part of 20 years, until given a new lease of life.
With the advent of WW2 and the subsequent constitution of the Royal New Zealand Navy as a stand alone New Zealand service in October 1941, Philomel was dusted off, cleaned up and readied for use as the the training base for the influx of wartime naval recruits. The old cruiser was re-commissioned as HMNZS Philomel to train all sailors destined to serve with the Royal Navy during WW2. The wartime urgency for increased numbers of sailors very quickly outgrew the capacity of the old ship so during the latter part of 1941, many of her training functions were transferred, along with the ship’s main mast, to the new training ‘ship’, HMNZS Tamaki on Motuihe Island.
Over the war years, HMNZS Philomel sprouted many creative additions on her decks in an effort to provide more space for the growing capacity of the Royal New Zealand Navy’s operations. Eventually these physical extensions spilled over to the use of onshore buildings. In January 1947 HMNZS Philomel (the old cruiser) was decommissioned for the second time and scrapped, while her name lived on being transferred to the new land establishment (‘stone’ ship) which has continued to expand over time. In 2000, HMNZS Tamaki was decommissioned with its functions returned to the base at HMNZS Philomel, now a sprawling ‘stone’ ship covering many acres.
“Your in the Navy now”
After four months of naval indoctrination at HMNZS Tamaki, Ordinary Rate (Seaman) Donald Read having learned the ‘Navy’ way, was now ship-shape and sharp in RNZN fashion. He graduated from basic training into the Engineering Branch of the Navy, his first step on the road to becoming a Marine Engineer. Posted initially to HMNZS Philomel, the Training Headquarters of the Royal New Zealand Navy, Don started his Branch Training with basic engineering fundamentals.
16782 D.N. REED ~ Marine Engineering Mechanician
Don Reed’s marine engineer training was a rolling maul alternating between lecture rooms, workshops, dockyard work, real time experience in ships afloat, and the all critical written and practical examinations. It took the best part of four years to become a basically qualified marine engineer – there was however much more to do over the coming years.
His first posting to a ‘blue water’ (ocean going) ship came in September 1960 when he joined HMNZS Royalist to serve as a ME – a Marine Engineer (aka Stoker). A former Royal Navy ship, HMS Royalist was indefinitely loaned to the RNZN in 1946, joining her two sister light cruisers, HMNZS Black Prince and Bellona. HMNZS Royalist was subsequently purchased as one of the first permanent acquisitions of the Royal New Zealand Navy’s fleet.
Malaysian Confrontation (1963-66)
Throughout 1961 and 1962 the remnants of the Malay Communist Party terrorists who had been driven from Malaya by the Commonwealth Forces during the 12 year Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), started a resurgent campaign of terror (with Indonesian support) to bring down the Malayan government and replace it with a communist one. Terrorists were infiltrating the Malay Peninsula by across border attacks, sea landings on the Malay coast and even a paratroop deployment (Indonesian).
In 1955 the Far East Strategic Reserve installed a Commonwealth Force based at Terendak in the northern Malayan state of Perak to manage the problem. In mid-1964 NZ responded to a request for support from the UK-led Commonwealth Strategic Reserve, a multinational force comprising UK, NZ, Australian and Malaysian military units and assets. NZ committed to the presence of two infantry battalions, the 1st Squadron NZ SAS Squadron (based at Terendak), RNZAF aircraft support from 14 & 41 Squadrons, and a RNZN light cruiser to join the multinational Strategic Fleet Reserve, both air and naval assets being based respectively at Singapore’s Changi Airfield and the Singaporean Naval Base at Sembawang. HMNZS Royalist deployed to S-E Asian waters on five occasions between 1959 and 1965 on tours of duty from four to eight months in duration. Her duties included escort, patrolling, anti-piracy and re-supply support. During her latter tours of duty, naval gunfire bombardment was employed. By 1965 there were some 60,000 troops and 80 surface ships from UK, NZ, Australia and Malaysia in the operational area.
Advanced ME training
Whilst on Royalist, having proved himself an Able Mechanician (AME), AME Reed gained his first promotion in March 1964 to the rank of Leading Mechanician (LME, aka Leading Stoker). Reed came off HMNZS Royalist at the end of 1964. He had by this time acquired sufficient sea-time and trade experience to equip him to undertake the all important two-year Marine Engineering Fitter’s course (all elements of fitting and turning for marine engine maintenance). This was a pre-requisite for any marine engineer’s advancement to the senior non-commissioned ranks (senior rates) of the Artificer Branch.
When successfully completed, the training would qualify Don as a Marine Engineering Technician (and raise his pay rate considerably). All students who attend this course are appointed with the rank of Acting Petty Officer. LME Reed swapped his hat badge for that of a Petty Officer’s and added a Crown in place of the two Stars to his Rank/Trade badge – he was now an Acting Petty Officer Marine Engineering Mechanician (A/POMEMech**).
A field trip in 1967 to the Kinleith Pulp and Paper Mill, Tokoroa as part of the Marine Engineering Fitter training course. In this photo Instructors and Kinleith staff accompany the six man course.
In the photograph (above) Acting POMEM Reed is sixth from the left. Fourth from the left is another A/POMEM who started the course with Don. Both men had only three months of training to complete the two-year course; the remaining four students still had 15 months of training ahead of them.
Notes: * Equivalent rank to Leading Aircraftsman (LAC) in the RNZAF, Lance Corporal (L/CPL) in the Army.
** Equivalent rank to a Sergeant (SGT) in the Army and Air Force.
With the two years of training behind him, A/POMEM Reed had qualified to have his a acting rank made substantive. Don was promoted to Petty Officer Marine Engineering Mechanician (POMEM) effective from December 1966. With his new qualification, a posting to a ‘stone’ ship’s appointment was assured. In January 1967, POMEM Reed was posted to Dockyard Maintenance at the Devonport Naval Dockyard for a six month period learning Marine Engineering maintenance from the Dockyard engineering groups.
In July a posting back to sea on a ‘blue water’ ship, HMNZS Waikato, turned out to be very short lived – just two days! POMEM Reed was re-assigned to HMNZS Blackpool F77, a Whitby-class or Type 12 anti-submarine Frigate that had recently arrived on loan from the Royal Navy and due to undergo a major re-fit before returning in service with the RNZN. There was however a sweetener that came with this positing. In September 1968 POMEM Reed was promoted to Chief Petty Officer Marine Engineering Mechanician (CPOMEM). Don swapped his cap for that of a Chief Petty Officer and his sleeve rank migrated to the lower sleeve in the form of three gold buttons. The two Stars on his Mechanician’s trade badge was replaced with a Crown. CPOMEM Reed continued to serve on Blackpool until November 1969.
When CPOMEM Reed came off HMS Blackpool in November 1969 , he was back to a ‘stone ship’ posted to the COMAUCK (Commodore Auckland) and the Fleet Maintenance Group (FMG). After six months at the FMG, his expertise was again needed afloat. In June 1970 Don’s next floating office was aboard another loan ship, this time from Australia – the Corvette HMAS Kiama.
HMAS Kiama M353 was named after the coastal town of Kiama, New South Wales. She was one of 60 Bathurst-class corvettes constructed during World War II, and one of 36 initially manned and commissioned solely by the Royal Australian Navy. After World War II, Kiama was one of four Corvettes sold to the Royal New Zealand Navy.
Back to HMS Blackpool F77 in December for two months, CPOMEM Reed went ashore again to HMNZS Philomel in Feb 1971 to prepare for acceptance trials of the RNZN’s newest acquisition, the Frigate HMNZS Canterbury F421.
HMNZS Canterbury F421
Being a highly qualified and experienced Marine Engineer, CPOMEM Reed was selected to be a member of the pre-commissioning crew who travelled to the Yarra Shipyards in Glasgow, Scotland to conduct the necessary checks on the Frigate before it was accepted and added to the RNZN Fleet. HMNZS Canterbury passed with flying colours however like any new vehicle, some running in (sea trials) would be required before Canterbury was fully commissioned into service. With that completed, CPOMEM Reed continued to serve aboard Canterbury for the following two years during which time he was again promoted.
The most senior non-commissioned rank to which a sailor can aspire is “Warrant Officer.” CPOMEM Don Reed’s promotion to Warrant Officer was achieved in record time. He had been in the RNZN for precisely 13 years when he was promoted to Warrant Officer in February 1973 – his official title: Warrant Officer Marine Engineering Mechanician (WOMEM) D.N.REED – RNZN. Quite a mouthful – and also quite an achievement. Don’s promotion to Warrant Officer at the age of 29 saw him become the youngest RNZN sailor to attain that rank at that time.
Another instructional posting awaited him at HMNZS Philomel in April 1973. Posted to Engineering School Training where budding Apprentice Marine Engineers are taught the basics of their trade, WOMEM Reed spent twelve months in this role, before he was returned to sea in July 1974. WOMEM Reed was back on Canterbury as the chief enlisted engineer (WOMEM). On 10 May 1975 WOMEM Reed reached another milestone. He was award the RNZN Long Service & Good Conduct Medal for Fifteen Years of exemplary serve (or as the uncharitable would say ’15 years of undetected crime’).
After two and a half years afloat, Don was well due for a shore posting. Reporting directly to COMAUCK (Commodore Auckland – the senior naval officer in charge) he was posted in Nov 1976 to the Naval Stores at the Devonport Naval Dockyard where he headed the purchasing of local alternative engineering spares.
In June 1978, WOMEM Reed was off to HMNZS Tamaki, back to where it had all begun for him as Boy Seaman in Jan 1960. Don was appointed another instructional/mentoring/training role, that of Apprentice Training Officer ~ Engineering Fitting & Turning. Don would be one of a team of senior and highly qualified tradesmen Training Officers employed at Tamaki. Eighteen months in this appointment would take him to the end of 1979 by which time he would complete 20 years of RNZN service. Don planned to end his naval career at that point to get himself establish in a civil occupation and perhaps take advantage of one of the opportunities that had been offered to him.
Posted back to HMNZS Philomel for the last time in Dec 1979, WOMEM Reed prepared for his release from military service. Don had decided to call it quits once he had completed 20 years. As a qualified Marine Engineer and an Apprentice Engineering Instructor, he had acquired skills that would serve him well in any civilian field. Twenty years of service was also the qualifying threshold for receiving a military pension. Taking one’s discharge from the NZDF at the twenty year point makes a lot of sense for many personnel as it allows a service man or woman sufficient years of working life to pursue another career, or other planned interests.
On completion of his Long Service and accumulated Annual Leave, at thirty eight years of age Warrant Officer Marine Engineering Mechanician Donald Neil Reed RNZN formally ‘cast off’ from the Royal New Zealand Navy and ‘walked the plank’ into civvy (civilian) street on 24 March, 1980.
Becoming a Civil Servant
Don didn’t let the grass grow under his feet for long. Settled in Manurewa with his wife and 3 children, Don secured a job for a multi-national company as its National Manager, in charge of the local production of Electrical Carbon Brushes for large DC/AC variable speed electric motors. In 1984, Don decided that he needed a change of direction, resigned and started his own business in manufacturing and selling 14-foot catamarans. He also saw an opportunity to develop another business that incorporated elements of what he had been doing previously – manufacturing carbon brushes for electrical machines. He was so successful with his manufacturing process and sales that he ended up in direct opposition to his previous employer. Don’s expertise in this field turned in his favour very quickly as word travelled in the business world. He was offered a small ‘goldmine’ to sell his carbon brush manufacturing business to another competitor company in Auckland. This he did, and then the company offered him a position as one of their senior company reps with lots of corporate travel and trimmings, through-out NZ. Sounded good, and with a lucrative offer for his boat building business on the table, the opportunity was too good to refuse.
This he did for four years before accepting a State Manager’s position in Perth in 1988. For this job Don would need to move permanently to Australia and so took that step in 1989 to take up a position with the multinational company “Le Carbone Lorraine” to set up, manufacture and sell carbon products to the industry in Western Australia. As the State Manager, he was also selling Activated Carbon mainly to the gold mining industry which required him to travel frequently out of Perth for a week at a time, driving about 3000 kms, sometimes more, on each trip. Obviously, he was doing a good job as he very soon inherited the responsibility for servicing the gold mining industries throughout Australia, PNG and NZ.
In 1997, Don decided he would be looking for an early grave if he kept going at the pace the pressures of his responsibilities demanded from his appointment. He tossed it in and returned to NZ where he had been offered a less taxing responsibility in a similar field. As it happened the job did not stack up to his expectations and in late 1997 he went back to Australia. Don took up a position in Mackay, North QLD the same year, working for the Motor Rewinding Company promoting rewind services for high voltage electrical machines whilst also becoming a thermal imaging consultant on electrical switch boards. After two years, Don quit the rewinding business and decided that the way forward was to start his own business venture again.
In 2000, Don’s technical expertise again came to the fore when he became closely involved in the new telematics industry. This was all about satellite controlled, two-way monitoring and control systems that are fitted to mobile refrigeration containers, specifically for both Carrier and Thermo King Refrigeration equipment on road and rail transport. True to form, Don built upon this experience and formulated yet another business plan. In 2001, he started his own business Monitoring-Oz Pty Ltd doing exactly as he had been for Carrier and Thermo King but this time for himself. His business is thriving and so is Don.
On the personal side, since Don’s first wife Lois passed away, he has re-married Ann. In 2000 the Reed family (Don, Ann, Nikita and Logan) became Australian citizens. Don and Ann have a blended family of eight children, twenty-four grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
In 2011, Don joined the 201Q1 Lions Club of Redland Bay, Victoria Point (Ann was already a member) and immediately became involved in the club’s executive management both as a Director and Vice President. He held the position of President in 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15. Don was the Zone Chairperson in 2015/16 and the Environment Chair for 2017/18, and also served as the District Sergeant at Arms. Don’s wife Ann is an active member of the Lions and was inducted as the District Governor of 201Q1 Lions Club for the 2017/18 year together with 18 other Australian Lions District Governors. These appointments were capped off with Don and Ann’s attendance at the Lions 100th Year Convention in Chicago.
Hobbies-wise, Don finally got around to indulging his passion for Chevrolets which has been on hold for years because of his busy business schedules. He has bought a 1977 L/H drive C10 Step-side Chevrolet Pickup Truck in 2013 that he imported from the USA. While the Chevy was in running order, it also needed some attention. What started as a ‘fix-up’ here and there became a full on ‘strip, clean and assemble’ job. Don totally stripped the vehicle down to the last nut and bolt and completely rebuilt it. The project has taken him just under four years to complete and to gain a Queensland road worthiness certificate. The new engine he put into the ‘Beast’ is a V8 Dart Small Block with a three-speed street auto fitted which develops about 490 HP (370 KW) at the rear wheels – that is fairly quick! He is now looking for a new project once the ‘The Beast’ has been sold.
In January 2020, Don and Ann were on the move again, this time hopefully it will be their last. They left Capalaba in Queensland for the semi-rural lifestyle offered in Bungendore NSW, just over the border from Canberra ACT. Don and Ann Reed reckon semi-retirement is looking all good at this stage – if they have time? Don, Ann and family – good luck and good health to you all from across the ‘ditch.’
The NZDF’s inception of a range of new campaign and service medals from 2002 was not something Don had been aware of – hardly surprising given it has been over 40 years since Don left the Navy, and together with the busy business life he has had since, back and forth across the Tasman and around Australia and PNG, the award of any retrospective military medals I am picking was not on his radar at all. Whilst preparing Don’s Long Service & Good Conduct Medal, I received a response from the good people at NZDF Personnel Archives and Medals who confirmed Don had an unclaimed medal. He has now received the NZ Defence Service Medal with Clasps REGULAR.
Since locating Don, he has been in contact with Rainee Stewart who was able to tell him first-hand how she came to have his medal in her possession. Needless to say Rainee is highly delighted the medal is finally back with its owner – she won’t have to re-think its future each Anzac Day any longer.
My thanks first and foremost to Rainee Stewart for sending us Don’s medal (which has now been cleaned, lacquered and provided with a new ribbon) – we are glad to be able to chalk up another successfully returned medal thanks to your careful custody of it over many years. A special mention of thanks goes to Mr Peter Jensen for spotting my FB message and passing it to Don – without your input Peter, I could still be searching for Don.