16 Oct 2012

Tributes paid to wartime coast watchers

8:44 am on 16 October 2012

A memorial service has been held at the War Memorial in Wellington to pay tribute to the service of coast watchers from New Zealand.

Official tribute was paid for the first time on Monday to the group who served overseas in World War II, including 17 who were beheaded by Japanese troops at Kiribati 70 years ago on this day.

New Zealand had 62 coast watch stations in the Pacific during the war and their job was to keep a 24-hour watch for enemy ships and aircraft.

Robin Klitscher, a former president of the Returned and Services' Association, says it is inexcusable it has taken so long for the group to be formally recognised.

Mr Klitscher, also a member of the National War Memorial Advisory Council, says the next step is for a physical memorial to the coast watchers to be erected in Wellington.

Many of those men worked for what has since become New Zealand Post, which says a permanent memorial is likely to be established in the capital within two years.

Chief executive Brian Roche says the head of the business at the time asked for volunteers but did not tell the men where they were going.

"It was partly an adventure, but it was an adventure with very significant consequences."