World War 2 veteran Colin Rutherford at Montecillo Veterans
Home and Hospital yesterday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
A Dunedin war veteran is disappointed a broken bone will
stop him returning to the battlefields of El Alamein, and the
chance to recall a close encounter with a landmine.
"That's life, I suppose," a philosophical Colin Rutherford
(93) said yesterday while nursing a broken left shoulder at
Montecillo Veterans Home and Hospital.
"I lost my balance and I am afraid a tarsealed road does not
have any give."
That unlucky break last week means, following a medical
ruling, he can no longer attend commemorations in Egypt to
mark the 70th anniversary of El Alamein on October 19.
He had been looking forward to the trip, as he had little
recollection of the actual battle.
"My memories of it are a bit vague. I got blown out of a jeep
when it hit a mine at night."
Mr Rutherford credits an order to place sandbags on the floor
of the jeep with saving his legs - and his life.
"There wasn't much of the jeep left ... and I was standing by
He served with the 8th Field Engineers who fought in North
Africa and Italy, and attended the 60th anniversary
commemorations of Cassino in 2004.
Veterans' Affairs general manager Rick Ottaway said he
acknowledged Mr Rutherford's disappointment at not being able
To be part of the delegation, North African campaign veterans
had to meet medical criteria to ensure they were well enough
to travel and participate fully in events.
While initially assessed as medically fit to travel, his fall
meant he required one-on-one care during the trip.
"With the number of veterans travelling in the delegation and
the difficult environment in Egypt, unfortunately this type
of care is not practical," Mr Ottaway said.
The Government was fully funding all eligible WW2 veterans to
attend a designated major overseas WW2 70th anniversary
commemoration linked to their overseas travel, which he could
apply for, he said.
Mr Rutherford would also be invited to a New Zealand ceremony
to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of El
Despite the setback, Mr Rutherford said he would continue to
lead an active life because "if you are doing something, you
always have a chance of seeing another year".