New Zealand Division thanks the Royal Navy

New Zealand Division thanks the Royal Navy

In appreciation of the huge effort made by the Royal Navy during the evacuations from Greece and Crete, the New Zealand Division held a collection once it returned to Egypt. The £820 raised (equivalent to around NZ$69,000 in 2011) was presented to Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham during a ceremony in 1941.

Private Denis Sampson (seen above handing the cheque to Admiral Cunningham) was one of the New Zealand Division’s representatives at the ceremony.

Then they had to make up a bit of a ceremony to present it all. They decided that they’d have one rank from each different unit of the Division. I was the private, representing the Medical Corps…. We went on board the HMS Phoebe where the ceremony took place. There was Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham and General Freyberg and the Brigadiers from our show, plus the Captain of the ship plus troops from the ship’s company that weren’t on duty, and they all formed up, stood around there. [I] gave [my] speech which was broadcast through the whole ship, Cunningham duly replied, I handed over the cheque and that was that.

Private Denis Sampson, 6th Field Ambulance, interviewed by Megan Hutching, 1 November 2000

See FANZ newsletter from 1941:

Naval operations map

The following account of the ceremony was published in the New Zealand Field Ambulance’s FANZ newsletter in Cairo, 1941.

Army Says ‘Thank You’

BEFORE a striking parade aboard one of His Majesty’s cruisers which took part in the evacuations of Greece and Crete, Admiral Cunningham, Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean fleet, recently received Major General Freyberg and representatives of the New Zealand Division. The G.O.C. N.Z. Division described the purpose of the function, explaining that the New Zealand Division was desirous of expressing its gratitude and admiration for the gallantry displayed by the Royal Navy during the withdrawal of land forces from the Balkan theaters.

In the course of his speech, Lance Corporal D.W. Sampson, the representative who presented the Admiral with the cheque to the amount of the donations from the Division, said:

‘We regret that circumstances make it impossible for the whole N.Z.E.F. to be present, but we can assure you that we speak on their behalf, when we voice our gratitude and deep appreciation for the work that was carried out for our sake.’

Admiral Cunningham was then presented with the cheque, which it was understood would be used to assist the dependents of officers and ratings who had lost their lives in these operations.

The Admiral, during his reply, said that in view of the spirit in which the gift had been offered, he could not do otherwise than accept it. He then called to mind similar operations twenty-six years ago when Gallipoli was evacuated, and he was then in command of a ship. ‘General Freyberg was not far away at that time’ he said. Speaking of the Division’s campaigns, Admiral Cunningham drew attention to ‘these particular failures’ and described them as ‘glorious failures’. Concluding he said, ‘In the end, there is nothing surer for us than victory’.

Then he called for three cheers for the New Zealand Division, and Major General Freyberg replied by leading the Military representatives in three cheers for the Navy.

So ended a simple but sincere ceremony – the appreciation of one service for the self-sacrificing help from another.

From FANZ, Cairo, 1941.

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