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Exhibition revives vivid memories for navy veterans

Posted at 11:37am Monday 16 Nov, 2020

Ivan Emirali was thrilled to see HMNZS Gambia – a ship he served on during World War II.
Ivan Emirali was thrilled to see HMNZS Gambia – a ship he served on during World War II.

More than 600 people flocked to see the Mahurangi Squadron Model Naval Boat Exhibition earlier this month to view 18 enormous model warships and dozens of miniatures at the Mahurangi East Library.

The exhibition, which featured ships up to nine and a half feet long, was put together by Brian Henman, a Royal New Zealand navy veteran now living in Algies Bay, and featured models from his own collection along with those of fellow enthusiasts Graeme Beeson, Mark Dimmock and Bob Talbot.

Mr Henman says the exhibition brought back vivid reminiscences for numerous former sailors, who had served on ships featured in the exhibition.

Among them was Ivan Emirali, 95, of Algies Bay, who served as a radar operator on HMNZS Gambia during World War II.

Mr Emirali says the ship formed part of the British Pacific Fleet during the war and spent much of its time off the coast of Japan. He preferred not to talk too much about the action he saw there, saying he played only a small part as one of a crew of about 900.   

But Mr Henman says other former sailors who visited the exhibition could not stop talking about their experiences, including some who had served on the aircraft carrier HMS Albion and another British ship HMS Vanguard. He says a lot of warships were scrapped in the 1960s and many sailors had not seen them since they left the navy.   

“Doing things like this brings back a hell of a lot of memories for these guys,” he says.

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