Yesterday morning at 5:45am, Durham Quigley led the Anzac Day Dawn Parade – an honour he has had for the last four years.
Durham has been a serving soldier for 31 years, with the last 10 spent as a reserve soldier in Nelson, while also managing the Ernest Rutherford Retirement Village for the last six years.
He has served in Bosnia and East Timor, and says that giving the commands to start marching from Millers Acre to Anzac Park on April 25th each year is a “really big honour”.
Durham joined the army at age 18 after growing up in Greymouth and then Havelock, with his parents buying the Pelorus Tavern.
After finishing school, he undertook an apprenticeship as a mechanic.
“But I decided I didn’t like working on vehicles all that much and I’d always had a wish to join the army more than anything, so I joined as an infantry soldier,” he says.
After completing training, he headed overseas to Singapore at age 19 for two years.
He came back to New Zealand in 1989, a time when there weren’t many overseas deployments.
“The late 80s and early 90s was a very quiet period for the army, but then things started to heat up, and we had groups heading to places like Cambodia and Somalia.”
And then there was the request for New Zealanders to work alongside the British in Bosnia and Durham was one of the soldiers who were selected to go over there for a six month tour in 1994.
“That was pretty much my first operation tour. It was a really busy tour, a very volatile place, a very complex military situation, and security for us had to be really tight – we always had to be on our guard,” he says.
Not long after, he went over to East Timor on the front line.
“That’s when things heated up for our company, and we lost one of our soldiers in a combat operation – and it really went from a peacekeeping to peacemaking-type operation.”
Durham went to Timor when his youngest son was just six weeks old.
“Having to leave my lovely wife and family behind was always difficult. You get the photos and the mail, but it’s always a tough time knowing your wife was at home having to fend for herself.”
After 21 years in the army, Durham decided it was time to pursue a “civilian career”, while still saying on in the military reserves.
Ten years on, he says Anzac Day is important to him. “To me, it’s honouring those who have sacrificed, not only their lives, but those who have served, those who have been injured – physically and mentally. We should be proud of our service and what we do for the country.”
Durham’s 15 year old son was also involved with this morning’s service, as a cenotaph guard, while his other 26 year old son is in the Navy.
“It is definitely a family affair,” he says.
“The only one not in uniform is my wife – but she’s always there.”