Sharp-Healy Family

The Story of the first two Generations

Desmond Dynes Sharp 1926 - 2012

Desmond Dynes Sharp.

Desmond Dynes Sharp was the younger of twins by 20 minutes, born on 2 December 1926 in Dunedin. His twin brother is John Ross Sharp.

Desmond passed away at 5.55 am on Friday 6 January 2012 in Wellington Hospital. Dale has prepared his life story, which includes some of the information below. View Life Story (Word doc), Life and Times Photo Gallery, and Funeral Photo Gallery.

Desmond prepared this story of his life in his own words.

Early Childhood

My earliest recollection of being 'me' was being dressed beside a gas heater by my mother or nanny on a morning in the smoking room of the Commercial Hotel on the corner of the main highway and the Brighton Road, Green Island, five miles south of Dunedin. I did not know then that I had a twin brother named John Ross. I was born twenty minutes after John according to my mother, at the Stafford Street Hospital in Dunedin. Of course, today it no longer exists as a maternity hospital.

My mother's name was Margaret often referred to as "Peg" and my father's name was John Bentley, often referred to as "Jack" particularly by the patrons of the bar at the hotel. My parents were publicans who ran their own business, my father running the bar and my mother running the kitchen, dining room and accommodation rooms. They had a staff to help them, but I do not recall any of their names or how many.

The photo below shows John and I being nursed by a nanny, Mary Bacosm, in 1927, at the Commercial Hotel, Green Island, Dunedin.

My grandfather and grandmother on my father's side came from Bethnal Green, that is John and Isabella, London, and my grandparents on my mother's side came from Ireland. Thomas came from a village called Menlo, near Galway and Margaret from Londonderry, Northern Ireland. I or we had other sisters and brothers: Eileen, Joan, Doreen, Denis, and Norwood (nicknamed Norrie after one of his uncles).

Twins Desmond and John with Nanny.

Life in a hotel

The daily life was the bar opened at 9 am and closed at 6 pm, affectionately called the famous 'six o'clock swill' as the patrons would drink as much as they could before the bar closed. Between 5 and 6 pm, a bar lunch would be served in the bars, at two different periods about 40 minutes apart, mainly snacks, chips fish ,food leftovers etc from the dining room and prepared by the cook.

Also, during the day there was always cheddar cheese and water biscuits on the bar the customers to eat.

It is interesting to note that the 'law' would carry out surprise raids at the hotels from time to time or when an exasperated wife would complain that her husband was spending too much time doing 'after hours' drinking at the hotel. This situation was very common throughout the country. Before World War One, closing time was later (I cannot remember the exact hours) and the six o'clock closing time was brought in as a war time measure. At a general vote after the war, the majority voted to retain the six o'clock closing, which remained in force until 1967.

When the police arrived, there was a general scatter out of the hotel or into the bedrooms of the hotel. The police sergeant and his constables would check the rooms and the accommodation register to ensure the 'patrons' were bone fide guests staying at the hotel. If caught, the publican was taken to court and charged with after hours serving of liquor and the District Licensing Committee would be notified of any guilty verdicts.

In the bar, the beer would come in hogsheads, wooden barrels of 52Ĺ gallons and these would be put in racks. The beer was drawn into the glasses by hand pumps at various points around the bar. During the summer, my father would order sacks of ice and these were placed on top of the barrels and the cold water would flow down into drip trays.

It was important to have no more than two guilty verdicts as on the third one, the publican lost his licence to run a hotel, and thus became unemployed. Also, apart from this, the publican had to appear in front of the Licensing Committee every so often to prove that he was a suitable and stable person to run a hotel business.

John and I

Des and John as lads.

At the back of the hotel was a stable, chicken run and a turkey run. Mother also had a cow which she milked in a paddock adjacent to the hotel backyard. She was called "Daisy" and I remember drinking warm milk straight after the milking. Mum would separate the cream and often make butter for the kitchen.

In the stable, my father would store all the empty bottles in wooden crates and material from the hotel to be collected for disposal. John and I would put several of these together nail on two sticks of wood and imagine we were train drivers at the head of a long passenger' as the only way to go to work to Dunedin was by train. Few people had cars and trains were the main means to go and from work to town although there were some buses.

We would help on simple tasks such as hosing down the front of the hotel and the footpath and in the kitchen. As we became older, we would sweep the bar and clean out the spittoons, into which the coalminers would spit their spittle. These were contaminated with coal dust, and using a scrubbing brush, hot water with Jeyes fluid mixed into it, soap and elbow grease we would get them clean again.

Another job was to mow the back lawn every two weeks or so, for which we received three pence each as pocket money and sixpence (about 7.2 cents) for the pictures each Saturday afternoon. The projectionist would come on Saturday stay at the hotel and screen the movies, Saturday afternoon and night. A highlight of the week!!!

Sunday was a quiet day. The bar was closed but the dining room and accommodation still operated and guests could drink in the 'lounge' and have drink with their meal in the dining room, even casual diners.

Church-going occurred every Sunday morning and the streets were deserted except for the faithful, going and coming. The afternoon was kept for playing or visiting family and friends. We didn't do very much of this as mum or dad had to stay at the hotel as one of the requirements of the licence.

Family outings

But it wasn't all bad. During the fishing season, Dad would take me river fishing, with his mates either to the Taieri River or the Clutha or the Waipori, and sometimes we would go north to the Shag River near Palmerston. We mainly caught trout, and eels, and in the Waipori River an occasional perch. Some days we had a good bag and others very small.

When we returned from the fishing, Dad would go to a friends place and we all would have an evening meal. One of Dad's friends was a Scotsman and we would have scones and 'cakes' as the main meal on Sundays was eaten at midday, sometimes a trout was cooked.

Family Group outing.

During the summer, the family would have a picnic outing, a real red letter day. We would go up to Waipori Gorge and Mum was a great hand at tickling resting trout under large stones (illegal of course). Also north of Dunedin at another river Dad liked to go, but it was too small for fishing. I liked the summer and autumn, the smell of the flowers, the grass, the ripening wheat, the butterflies and insects that lived on the plants and weeds, the long sunny warm days, blue skies with feathery clouds, the orchards that John and I would raid for the ripe apples and pears. We would lie down on the soft grass, pick a large daisy and say "she loves me, she loves me not", removing one petal at a time.

We made our own fun, going walking through the farmer's fields in springtime, picking up white turnips, washing the dirt off, and eating them, getting our shoes dirty with mud. On wet days we carried a sugar bag, and when it rained, we turned the sack inside out and put over our head and shoulders to keep us dry; the 'sugar bag years' as it is now known for the depression was in full swing by the 1930s. All the bulk food came in jute bags, or cotton bags. The cotton bags Mum would keep to make Christmas puddings and at jam making time use the cotton bags for making jam jellies from blackberries etc. Eggs, Mum used to put down in preservative liquid in four gallon tins during the summer so to have them available when the hens that we ran, 'went off the lay' during late winter and early spring. These eggs were used for meals and baking as there was no other supply available.

When Dad first had the hotel, there was no sewage reticulation and we had a 'nightcart man' who would come along a remove the contents of the bucket and empty it in his cart (a horse and dray). This was done mostly at night and if you were unlucky enough, and were going about your 'business', you would suddenly feel an icy draft of cold air surrounding your buttocks. Later on of course we had septic tanks installed and later still proper sewage reticulation. The community was progressing away from the pioneer basics to more modern systems.

A comment here of an attitude of my parents. During the depression years, my Dad would take food to those who were very poorly off, so they could eat - no social welfare in those days - but my mother often objected. But my Dad said, "these people are my living and I owe them something in return for their custom". Whether to keep their custom as there were two hotels at Green Island, or for compassionate reasons I do not know. I like to think of it as for compassionate reasons, but it was probably for both reasons.

Lasting memories I have of this period are the smell of the bread wagon brought by horse and cart, when the doors at the back were opened and the wonderful smell of fresh baked bread came drifting out. The large herd of turkeys my Mother used to keep, feed and kill for Xmas meals. The milk wagon and the ladling of milk and cream from stainless steel urns by pint and quart measures. The penny ice-creams and sweets John and I used to buy from the dear old lady at her shop about three hundred yards near the main shops at Green Island. The large number of horses and the inevitable 'dung' heaps and smell as you walked along the road and the relatively small number of motor vehicles on the road. The drowning of a kitten in the Kaikoura Stream opposite our hotel, and throwing into the same stream, Denis' school bike, probably the result of an argument we had with him, the for which reasons I do not remember. The summer picnics where the adults would use carbide bombs made out of Edmunds backing powder tins to stun fish instead of using a rod and line. The smell of the grass and flowers at summertime - all these are remembered.

Childhood years 1931-1939

John and I started our school years at Green Island Primary School in Primer one. For some reason, which I do not remember, we did not mix well with the other children at the school. From memory we had fights with our schoolmates (perhaps social status induced as the depression was still having its affects and Dad was a businessman) so we were not very long at that school. We were removed and sent to Fairfield Primary School to the south on the main highway. The school building does not exist now as a new one has been built further along in the town due to population increase.

Some things I recall from that period was the long walk we had from the hotel each day. It would be a good mile distance. Yes, we were not taken to school by car in those days as seems to be the normal thing to do now. Perhaps reflecting the changes in attitudes over the period and the decline of respect for the sanctity for life, but don't get me wrong, there were still murders and child molestation then, a lot of which was kept under lock and key.

Naturally, John and I had our naughty times, like when we raided nearby orchards in the summer for ripe apples or pears. Sometimes we ate green fruit and became sick so mother gave us olive oil 'to settle our stomachs'. It was dreadful stuff to take and I often think it was a punishment for our misdeed. In the summer, we would take off our shoes and walk to school in bare feet and put them back on just before arriving home again.

At school we would play rounders (type of baseball) and swing between the wooden rafters in the play shed where to wood was worn down and round through the wear of the hands. One of the jobs in the winter was to light the pot-belly stove and bring in the coal for the fire. From memory the school was only a two, perhaps a three classroom school and of course, was built in wood. We also had a garden and in the spring and summer months, time was spent in learning the basics of gardening. Who received the produce from it I do not know. Nearby, was a brick works and a sandpit from which the bricks and sand were railed by the branch line to the main line at Green Island station.

Just down the road was a gun club, quite common in those days, and we would go and watch the men shoot at the black claybirds on Saturday afternoons, then help them fetch back the ones that had not been hit. Again, on some days we would hide in the drainage pipe below the site of the gun club and during the firing go out a pick up the. whole claybirds and keep them for later melting down to make marbles. When the afternoon shooting was finished, we were cheeky enough to help the men find the ones we did not take. We would then go down to the gangers shed and light a fire to melt the claybirds into marbles which was the fashionable game in that period. I guess we lost too many glass ones and these were a good substitute.

Another time, during the day, we sat on the overhead rail bridge on the Brighton road, just below the hotel and drop small stones at the cars passing below to see if we could hit any of them. Needless to say, Dad was informed by a motorist (who probably knew us) and we were promptly put to bed for punishment. But that was not all.

Dad called up the local constable, who arrived in full uniform, a very impressive gentleman who proceeded to tell us what happened to those who broke the law. He put the fear of the Lord and Hell into us, bread and water for food, only one blanket, no pillow and a hard bunk to sleep on, and then the long prison term with hard labour breaking up rocks. We were scared as hell!! - too frightened to say anything. I guess Dad was thinking that the talking-to would put us in our place. Well it did. This would be about 2 pm, I guess.

But not for long! Children have a habit of bouncing back against adversity if you could call it that. Our bedroom faced the main road and somehow we managed to obtain a box of matches, and not being sick and full of life, we set the curtains over the window alight, then tried to put it out. Luckily, a passing motorist saw the smoke, stopped and told Dad there was a fire in the bedroom. Dad came rushing down with a bucket of water and put the fire out. What a hullabaloo! I don't recall what happened but we could have burnt the hotel down. What devils we were! Unaware of the consequences of our actions.

Other times we would walk over the fields above Abbotsford or walk to Green Island Beach for the day and play on the high sandhills there.

John Des and Norrie.

We did little or no fishing ourselves. One Sunday, as trains did not run until very late in the afternoon, we walked through the Caversham train tunnel in the dark, and every time there was a noise, we became scared in case a train was coming and we looked for a recess in the tunnel wall to hide. I guess, although we were threatened with dad's razor strap several times during our bringing up, I cannot remember being thrashed, only having the strap at school. So our primary school days passed on while living at the Commercial Hotel at Green Island. We were never violent nor destructive to property and graffiti was not fashionable then.

I recall the tramps coming in to the hotel looking for food and work. The same ones would appear each year. They would be put to work by Mum, who would make them a meal or send them on their way with a food parcel. Corned beef sandwiches were just the tops! They moved on to Australia during our winter and appeared next summer going down to Invercargill each one with their swag and return during the late autumn on their way back, probably working their passage on a ship.

At the Fairfield Primary School, we had desks that sat two pupils and normally the boys and girls would sit separately in pairs. One of the tricks we played on the girls was to dip their hair into the ink wells and stain it blue/black. Nasty eh! The ink wells were set in a recess at the front of each pupil and the ink was made up from powder as required. We used pens with nibs for our writing and these would break after a while. We would snap off the ends and make darts with them using paper as flight guides. Then we used to have 'fights' with them or just throw them up to the ceiling where they would stick. I notice that in the swimming pools of today in the changing rooms, boys now use toilet paper to throw up at the ceiling or walls - nothing changes very much.

London Street

London Street Homestead.

About 1936 as I recall, mother and father retired for a while and bought a house in London Street, Dunedin (pictured left). It was a beautiful house, built by a rich family on the design of a manor house in England. Separate staff quarters, three car garage, billiard room, drawing room, ball room, library, smoke room, water heated central heating (the boiler of which I had to light from time to time), large dining room etc, a lovely place with three quarters of an acre of grounds. While living there John and I went to Arthur Street Primary School, standards two or three.

It was here that the first differences between John and I became apparent. Of course I was much too young to be aware of it. John had a better memory than I, which resulted in higher exam marks at the end of the year. As a consequence, John was advanced to the next class and I was retained in the same class for another year. Thus we had our first separation in our lives, which remained throughout the rest of our school years. Recently I have considered if I had some minor dyslexia as I have always found remembering hard work and need to commit facts or information to paper. Anyway, it's too late to worry about it now.

Then my parents moved to 10 Wilson Avenue, St Clair, Dunedin (pictured left), into a modern new home about 1937 or so. This put us close to where Uncle Willie and Auntie Rose Johnson lived further down Forbury Road, and Uncle Norrie and Auntie Jean Norwood who lived in Tainui. At Wilson Avenue, John and I went to St Clair School in a class ahead of me. I attended standard four there and was put in charge of the daily milk issues and collected the crates of the half pint bottles and placed them in front of each class room.

Wilson Avenue Homestead.

In the summer the school had a cricket team and we played at the Oval sports ground each Saturday morning against other schools. I enjoyed that period of my schooling, really having nothing to worry about. John and I did have an evening post paper run (The paper being The Evening Star), to about 90 or so homes for five shillings a week which we divided between us. All the paper boys gathered at a dairy owned by a Mr Simpson each day at four o'clock and many years later in Wellington, I met him once again, in all places at men's toilet in Courtney place.

As the area at Wilson Avenue had not been fully developed for housing there were orchards close by and John and I would raid these places for apples and pears to eat at night and at times we had to hide as the owner would appear checking on any noise we made but we did not get caught. Our other pastimes we went swimming, both in the sea at the beach at St Clair among the breakers in the summer and going to the heated indoor pool at Moray Place in the city. The tram fare was fourpence each way and often we spent a morning there.

Also while living at London Street we both were 'lollie boys', carrying trays of confectionery up and down the isles in the Regent Theatre and at 'half time' would take in ice cream cones for the picture patrons. Yes, in those days you had newsreels of world news, a short comedy and a cartoon, then a break, followed by the main feature, not as it is now with only the main feature.

During the screening of the first half, we had time on our hands and would go out and fill in time by exploring the local area. Once we climbed the fire escape of a restaurant and looked through the windows of the kitchen, watching the chefs and waitresses working there. We were seen and told to scram and the manager of the theatre was notified. We surely were given a ticking-off as it was a favourite trick of thieves to use the fire escape as a means of their illegal activities. So much for growing up in a city and having the possibility of getting into trouble.

Other more enlightening activities were visiting the various factories as part of the school outings. We visited the museum, Cadbury's chocolate factory, Griffin's biscuit factory I think, the Railways Hillside Workshops where the railway engines were built, AB's, WB's, JA's and KB's, the main workhorses of the railway network.

About this time the Education Department brought in the 'intermediate schools' for standards 5 and 6. I had to leave St Clair School and attend MacAndrew Bay Intermediate School which was a little closer than St Clair school. I was caught talking at times in class and the teacher had a name of "Biff Simonson" as he used a leather strap to discipline the wayward pupils. He would say "finger tips, fingers or palm" and strap you on the hand according to your choice. I must say that the strapping did not do me any harm. You just accepted the punishment and it was forgotten, no emotional claptrap you get now with psychologists.

In 1938, the war clouds were building up in Europe and the armed services were recruiting men for training and the expected war. Denis, while at Otago Boys High School won the Commonwealth Rifle shoot, a real top shooter. Anyway he joined the RNZAF and a group was sent to England to train as pilots (a photo of them leaving Dunedin is in my album). However war broke out while they were training in UK and they were transferred to the RAF to assist in the defence of Britain. No doubt his uncanny shooting ability enabled him to survive the war after many adventures while many others were not so lucky.

During 1940, John went to Kings Boys High School in MacAndrew Bay Road near our Wilson Street home in the third form, and I was at the Intermediate School in Standards 5 and 6. It was at this point in our twinning that we parted into separate lives. In 1941 I was enrolled at Otago Boys High School in Form III (Form IIIB) but I only spent three weeks there as my parents moved north in late February and I travelled by express with Joan and John Braithwaite to Christchurch. In Volume LVII No 1 dated July 1941, my name is mentioned as a new boy (D. D. Sharp in IIIB) and also as a 'boy who has left since the beginning of the year' (D. D. Sharpe IIIB). I was unaware that my parents, after living privately for the past few years, had arranged to manage a hotel in Christchurch.

Well it happened when my father took on the management of the White Hart Hotel, in High Street, Christchurch. My parents bought or rented a house in Bealey Avenue where we lived. I was enrolled at Christchurch Boys High School in Form III, where among other things I learnt Latin and French. I had a bicycle and rode to school each day. My only recreation at that time was to go to the Saturday afternoon pictures, costing threepence entry for the children's sessions as I did not know anyone of my age. Then life changed again.

My parents decided to run a hotel in Nelson as proprietors, so in October 1941 we all shifted to Nelson and I was enrolled at Nelson College. Three schools in one year! I spent four years at Nelson College, from the fourth to the sixth form. (His school report in May 1940 shows he was third-equal in the class for French, first in Science, and third in Arithmetic, all three subjects for which Des showed an exceptional aptitude for during his entire life. He also took up music and learnt the trombone, playing in the school orchestra. He actually achieved School Certificate in 5 subjects. [Dale])

The hotel was called the Trafalgar Hotel and was in the main Street of Nelson, a three storey wooden building with accommodation for guests a bar and dining room, kitchen etc, and we lived on the premises.

The Story continues ... from Dale

Des with his mother on his 21st birthday.

After Des left school, he began work as a weather observer at Taieri airport in Dunedin. If you asked him today what type of clouds are out there in the sky, he would be able to describe them all in great detail.

Taieri Aerodrome

In a letter to a friend, Des described his days at Taieri. "After I left Nelson college in 1945, I joined the Civil Aviation Department as a trainee meteorological observer. In January 1946, I was sent to a three month course at Woodbourne Aerodrome, where I completed the course and was posted to Taieri Aerodrome as part of a 5/6 team of observers with the forecaster Mr Joe Finklestein as the officer in charge. A Mr Alan Maclevey (as I remember was the senior observer). The office was under the control tower and there, we did our work, three hourly detailed observations and flying weather balloons to determine wind direction and speed. Being single, I was billeted with the airforce staff in a separate dormitory with other civilian observers. We ate in the combined mess and we mixed with the servicemen and had use of the bar and lounge area.

We had working shifts of 8-5 pm, 5.30-12.30 am, 9-6.30 pm and 10.45 pm - 8 am - night shift which we did alone. The other side of the aerodrome was the Aero Club and the non-service civilian area. The air traffic control was manned by RNZAF service officers. Weekly pay was (pounds) 1.17.6 per week and as civilians we paid for our board to the air force. The night shift was divided into two shifts - Monday-Thursday and weekends Friday-Sunday nights.

Duties consisted of taking observations three hourly and hourly ones (current weather) for the aircraft, flying weather balloons to determine upper wind directions and speed, plotting the weather reports on a big chart showing Australia, New Zealand and far to the east in the Pacific Ocean. From these charts Mr Finklestein would forecast the local weather and for the NAC aircraft - which would be telephoned to 4ZB and to the control tower staff above us. As I remember there were no night flying scheduled regularly by NAC and the main civilian aircraft were Lockheed Lodestars Hudsons, and Douglas Dakotas flown by NAC, the main means of moving people.

The main communication in receiving weather reports for Australia, NZ and the Pacific was through a teleprinter network operated by a P"T teleprinter operator during normal working hours. It was also used for administrative messages and for sending our local weather reports. Outside the normal hours, we had to do the sending of reports ourselves. Our office also had a "RadioSonde" which was used during the mid morning to determine the upper air winds as the helium balloons rarely went higher than 30,000 feet.

On our off-days, I would go to Dunedin as I had a married sister there, and if it was a weekend, a group of us would pair off with our girlfriends and attend Joe Brown's famous town hall Saturday night dance. All in all, I enjoyed my time at Taieri and the social life when I could go to Dunedin and be with my friends.

On other off-days, I did a lot of rabbit trapping in the area where the then Central Otago railway line enters the foothills. I skinned the rabbits and sold them to a hide company - a useful addition to my finances. I used to find a lot of feral cats caught in the traps and I could not release them as they were fiery animals, no doubt an effect of the station being reduced in strength after WWII ended and servicemen being demobilised. I carried a .22 calibre rifle and with this I put the feral cats out of their misery.

Some of the highlights during my time there in 1947/48 were the arrival of the Bristol Freighter, the visit of General Montgomery, the flight of Mosquito bombers at the Otago Aero Club Air Pageant in 1948, the visit of a Lincoln bomber and the first twin engined jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor. Also about that time, there were the visits of the American Dakotas and the beginning of the interest in Antarctica with the setting up of the bases there. Another aspect was the use of the RNZAF to drop food and ammunition supplies to the civilian deer cullers in the back mountain country in Otago and I actually did a trip up on one of those supply drops.

I resigned from the Civil Aviation department in 1948 and returned to Nelson where my parents lived. "

In 1948, Des and John celebrated their 21st birthday. It was late, as John had been overseas at the time in Japan with J-Force.

Army career

Des joined the New Zealand Army on 8 June 1949 in Nelson, and was posted as a Private on probation at Burnham. He had attended the ATC while at high school. The Army was rebuilding after the war and needed all the men it could get. With his older brother Denis returning from the war as a hero, and several other members of the family in the services, it was an obvious choice for Des.

Following his basic training, Des was posted to the Royal New Zealand Armoured Corp at Waiouru on 31 August 1949 and assumed the role of Clerk on 12 January 1950. He attended various courses at Linton, Waiouru and Burnham, including being a gunnery instructor for a compulsory military training intake (.300 Browning machine gun). In 1951 he was involved in the wharf strikes and in June 1953 was involved in the Army Rugby Trials. On 22 September 1953 Des was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. During the 1953 Tangiwai Disaster, Des helped man the temporary morgue set up at Waiouru Military Camp, where the bodies where brought to be cleaned before identification by families.

On 5 April 1954 he was posted to the Tank Holding and Maintenance Section. On 8 June 1954, Des re-engaged with the Army until retiring age for rank and moved to 15 Andrews Drive, Waiouru from the army flat he was previously occupying. On 3 November 1959, he was moved to the Queen Alexandra Regiment in the role of Regimental Quartermaster at the rank of Senior Sergeant which he had held for 3 years. On 18 December 1959, Des was appointed to the rank of Warrant Officer Class II, and on 4 June 1961, transferred to the New Zealand Scottish Regiment, and sent to Wellington. The family was the first to live in the new Army houses in Porirua.

Scottish Regiment Retires

Des Sharp on parade at Linton.

On Saturday, 16 April 2016 the New Zealandís Scottish Regiment passed into history as its colours were laid up at Toitu Otago Settlers Museum. (as reported on the Dunedin City Council website. The image left shows Des on parade at Linton in the Scottish Regiment uniform, being inspected by the Governor-General Sir Bernard Fergusson. Des is in the front row at the end.

The laying up of the colours marks the disbandment of the last components of the New Zealand Scottish Regiment. Toitu OSM Director Jennifer Evans says the laying up of the colours is a significant event for both the Regiment and the Museum. "The New Zealand Scottish Regiment has had a Dunedin base since it was established. We are privileged to be taking over the care and preservation of its colours. This recognises Dunedinís Scottish heritage, and its connections with the New Zealand Defence Force," she says.

The New Zealand Defence Force says it is the end of an era for the Regiment who were known for their distinctive highland dress and glengarry bonnets at ceremonial events, wearing the tartan of the famous Black Watch Regiment, with whom the unit is affiliated. "The Scots colours are not just flags Ė they are unique in their design and have bought New Zealanders of Scottish descent together. Under these colours they trained, bonded with each other and shared experiences. Their lineage has been recorded and the unit's identity forged in these colours," says Major Kevin Williams. "There is a certain amount of sadness in laying up the colours, but instead of being laid up in a church where they will decay, we are pleased they are going to a museum where they will be well preserved for ex-members of the Regiment and future generations to view."

The New Zealand Scottish Regiment was established in January 1939 after the New Zealand army was lobbied for a number of years to follow other Commonwealth countries in having a kilted Scottish regiment. The attraction of the highland uniform helped boost recruitment at a time when the prospect of war was growing ever closer. Units of the Regiment were set up in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland as part of the Territorial Army. Later in its history, the Regiment was converted from an infantry to an armoured corps unit.

Defence Headquarters

On 25 November 1963, Des was appointed to Headquarters Command and assumed the rank of Temporary Warrant Officer Class I, as Chief Clerk of 2 Infantry Brigade Group, with confirmation of rank on 3 September 1964. He was moved to live in Trentham, and reported to Trentham Army Camp on 18 May 1965. Later he was appointed to the rank of Lieutenant and Quartermaster, and on 8 October 1965 he was appointed to the Defence EDP Planning section in Porirua to help computerise the army pay records. He assumed the rank of temporary Captain and Quartermaster on 18 September 1968, and permanent appointment on 1 September 1969.

With the Defence reorganisation, on 1 June 1970, Des was posted to Management and Services Branch at Defence Headquarters, in the position of Project Planning Officer and promoted to Captain on 28 July 1971. On 1 July 1975 he was promoted to Major. He retired with the rank of Major on 2 December 1976, having worked his way up through the ranks to being a commissioned officer. The note in the "New Zealand Gazette" reads: Royal NZ Armoured Corps, Major and Quartermaster Desmond Dynes Sharp, B.E.M., is posted to the Retired List, with effect from 3 December 1976.

British Empire Medal

The highlight of Des's exemplary Army service career was when he was awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Years Honours in 1959, for exceptional services in the course of his duty. He was invited by His Excellency the Governor General to attend the investiture at Government House at Wellington on Friday 13 November 1959, which was attended by his wife Daughan and mother Margaret. He received letters of congratulations from the Prime Minister Mr Walter Nash, the Minister of Defence, the Chief of Army Staff, his commanding officer, and everyone in the family and they make fascinating reading. It was a very auspicious occasion for his mother Margaret and wife Daughan, with Des in full military uniform, all polished and pressed and ready for inspection.

Meeting and Marrying Daughan Rush

Wedding day of Daughan and Des Sharp, Taihape.

Before that however, while he was stationed in Waiouru military camp in the early 1950s, Des used to travel to Taihape on the limited express each Saturday night with all the other army boys for some R&R. Dancing in the town hall was a popular pastime, and it was there that he spotted and fell in love with a vivacious redhead named Daughan Rush. They were engaged in July 1952, and married in St Mary's Catholic Church, Taihape on 14 November 1953, the day before Daughan's 22nd birthday. It was one of the largest and most memorable weddings ever held in Taihape. Now when a soldier boy from Dunedin marries the daughter of the local police constable, you can imagine what might have been said from the father of the bride to the future son-in-law - maybe some finger wagging and jokes about who has the bigger gun.

The best man was Desmond Lashlie, and the Maid of Honour was Catherine Mickleson. The bridesmaids were Jennifer Hanify (nee Rush), Margaret Maher (nee Rush) and flower girl Marie McMenamin. David Rollo and Brian Henry Rush (Pete) were groomsmen.

The marriage produced eight children spanning 19 years, starting with Dale, then Lesley, Raewyn, Karen, Graeme, Christine, Maureen and Brian. There are 12 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren.

Post Army Activities

After Des retired from the Army, having been awarded his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, he joined the Department of Statistics as an EDP Training Officer for 12 years, when the department was increasing its computing facilities. He spent months travelling around New Zealand training people in how to use the new computer systems. After that he spent several months training for the Lotteries Commission when Lotto was first introduced into New Zealand.

Sadly Daughan fell ill with cancer in the mid 1980s. Des nursed her through the illness but she passed away on 19 October 1989. She is buried at Paraparaumu Beach Cemetery.

Newly widowed, in 1990 he went into partnership with his son-in-law Scott and daughter Karen doing contract chain link fencing.

2nd Marriage

Desmond and Noelle on their wedding day.

In 14 August 1993 Des married Noelle Evelyn Heap aged 52, whom he had known for many years through their association with judo. The marriage took place at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Paekakariki. The best man was Peter Rush and the Matron of Honour was Janet Bywater.

In May 1994, they sold up and went on their big OE, spending four years working in England, mainly in Coventry, and touring Europe in their Combi campervan. During this time, several members of both families were working and living in England, and they had many outings and meals together.

When they returned to New Zealand in 1997, Des retired from all work, although Noelle continued to work for several years.

Sailing and Tramping

In December 1998, Noelle and Des bought a 29 foot yacht named 'Extrapet' and spent many happy hours sailing around the Kapiti coast and the Marlborough Sounds with their good friends Archie and his son, David, and Graeme. During this time Des obtained his Coastal Skipper ticket and Marine VHF Operator licence. He took most members of the family out on sailing trips, taking the utmost care and paying special attention to preparation and operation of the boat. They also spent a lot of time tramping in the New Zealand bush, walking the Milford and Heaphy tracks, Queen Charlotte Track and the central North Island crossings.

As Des once said, to make up for his lack of creative and trade skills, he focused on sport and other hobbies, saying he was a 'doer' rather than a 'thinker'. He loved judo, a sport he was introduced to back in the army, and for 25 years he regularly was seen at the club rooms and competitions, obtaining 2 Dan black belt status. He set up the Kapiti Judo club and recently attended their 40th anniversary. Two of his daughters Karen and Christine also did judo, and Karen continues the legacy Des created at the Kapiti club, along with his granddaughter Amy, who has competed at national level.

A private pilot

Back in 1983, Des also learnt to fly, completing his first solo flight on 11 March 1984 over Paraparaumu in a Cessna 152. He obtained his pilot's licence a year later and was certified for cross-country flying. He was also introduced to a World War II Harvard trainer in 1986, obtained his night flying certificate in 1987, and commenced aerobatic training in December 1987. A card he gave his wife Daughan once, said "living dangerously is my motto". His last flight was from Karamea to Paraparaumu on 17 November 1992.

Another love was travelling and learning languages. From the age of 14 Des had shown an aptitude for languages and geography, and in 2001 he studied Spanish in preparation for a visit to Spain, to walk the Camino de Santiago, a medieval pilgrim route from the French border to Santiago de Compostella. And believe it or not, on 4 December 2000, Des sat and passed School Certificate Spanish. He was 74. Apparently all the other candidates wondered who this old fella was coming in to the exam room, and he wasn't the examiner!

RNZAC Oral History Project

Desmond took part in the RNZAC Oral History Project which was launched in Waiouru in June 2002. The purpose of the project was to gather oral histories of the post World War II period as a resource for the RNZAC. Des was interviewed by Chris Wotton, a member of the Project Team in 2010, and the contents of the tapes are held by Dale Hartle. They are also being digitised and transcribed. The tapes cover the life and times of Des in his 27 years with the RNZAC, and his impressions of this period of New Zealand's Army history.

Visiting the Cambrai Battlefields

In the 1998/99 edition of the RNZAC Old Comrades Association newsletter, Des tells of his visit to the Cambrai battlefields.

"Our travels took us (Des and Noelle) to the Cambrai Battlefields, seeting the flat rolling countryside devoid of fences, gave a new insight to the battles. On arrival at the town of Cambrai, we went to the Tourist Office (where no-one spoke English) to obtain information on the battles. The next day we set off to visit the Cambrai memorials, taking in Marcoing, Louverval, Havrincourt, Grouzeaucourt and Fontaine-Notre Dame. At Louverval is a large memorial to: '7048 officers and men of the Forces of the British Empire who fell at the Battle of Cambrai during 20 November and 3 December 1917, and have no known grave, their names are here recorded.' Both chilling and memorable to read of the huge loss of life and to see the countryside where today's Armoured Corps began. We also toured the American World War II D-Day landing beaches at Omaha and Utah - again a very emotional experience, especially the American cemetery of 10,000 servicemen who perished at and after the landings. Returning to Portsmouth from Cherbourg, we travelled to Dorset to spend a day at the Tank Museum in Bovington, the front of which is guarded by a Chieftain and Churchill tank. The visit was a most memorable occasion, full of interest with displays ranging from the turn of the century to the Gulf War. To our surprise, we found a Walker Bulldog, yes NZ30544, ex Waiouru, presented to the Museum by NZ Army Department. The other star exhibit is the cut-in-half Centurion tank which is also quite famous."

Hidden Talent

In a school report one teacher said Des struggled with English, but in reality he was harbouring a hidden talent that the school curriculum of the day failed to identify. Des documented everything - every day he diarised his travels, totted up his expenses, wrote planning lists and check sheets, his address book is packed with names, and he read widely. He weighed and measured all his tramping and travelling equipment, swotted up his routes, plotted them on maps and extensively researched everywhere he was going. He built, fixed, painted and adjusted everything he needed or used, even though he had no formal trade. His secret to success was in the planning, a trait taught him by the Army. He never threw anything out, and he knew where everything was, even if it took a while to find it. [Dale]

Noelle's illness

Unfortunately Noelle fell ill in 2004 with cancer, and passed away on 9 October 2005. Des has always had a close association with Noelle's family, and is considered a grandfather to little Zac and Noelle's other grandchildren. His weekly coffees with Michaela and regular visits with Matthew and Maria, were especially important to him to keep in touch with events in their families.

Alone again, Des launched himself into new activities, taking up dancing again. He always loved dancing from his school days in Nelson, and was called "twinkletoes" by one of his nieces Margaret, and he built up a large circle of dancing friends, some of whom are here today.

Another activity was helping out at the Karori church, working on the grounds and assisting with running the parish.

Des also continued his Spanish lessons, attending Victoria University's language school regularly, and he sponsored a World Vision child, writing many letters in perfect Spanish to her.

He kept up his sailing until the boat was sold at the beginning of 2011, and in between times he had several trips to Australia to visit his brothers Norrie and John, and his daughters Lesley, Christine and Maureen and son Graeme. He also kept in regular touch with his eldest sister Eileen, who passed away at the age of 96, along with her son Raymond and daughter Lenore, and their families. Also special is his niece Barbara and her family.

Late in 2011, Des was awarded the New Zealand Defence Service Medal for those who had served in the military for three years or more since the end of World War Two.

He also attended the gym, he loved swimming and biking, walking, and reading. He wasn't going to let a weak heart interfere with his routines, and he boxed on as best he could.

It's hard to believe that in December 2010, Des rode the central Otago rail trail with his son Graeme and family.

Overseas Trips

Apart from the 3.5 years Des and Noelle spent living and working in the United Kingdom and travelling around Western Europe, Scandinavia, and Turkey from 1993-1997, the following lists the other overseas trips completed:

  1. April-July 1999: (Des and Noelle) New Zealand to Australia, Thailand, Italy, Jordan, Israel, France, Spain (by rental car), London, South Africa, Australia
  2. April-August 2001: (Des and Noelle) New Zealand to Australia, Singapore, United Kingdom, Scotland, Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands, France (by train), Spain (first Camino), Singapore
  3. October 2001: (Des only) Australia to visit family
  4. August-October 2003: (Des and Noelle) New Zealand to Australia, London, Spain (second Camino, cut short due to Noelle's injury), Isle of Wight, Australia
  5. February 2004: (Des and Noelle) Australia to visit family
  6. July 2004: (Des only) Australia to visit family
  7. April 2006: (Des only) Australia to vist family
  8. January-February 2007: (Des only) Australia to visit family
  9. March-April 2007: (Des only) Australia to visit family
  10. July - September 2007: (Des and Brian) New Zealand to London and Spain (third Camino)
  11. January-February 2008: (Des only) Australia to visit family
  12. September-October 2008: (Des only) Australia to visit family
  13. February 2009: (Des only) Australia to visit family
  14. December 2009-January 2010: (Des only) Australia to visit family
  15. October-November 2010: (Des only) Australia to visit family

The three Caminos

This section documents the three 'Caminos', and was written by Des in December 2008. 'El Camino de Santiago, Spain' is the Medieval Pilgrim Route of St James, the Apostle.

1. Tuesday 15 May to Monday 4 June 2001

This was the first time on the Camino for myself and Noelle. We walked from St John Pied de Port in France to Navarrete in Spain (Saturday 26 May), when Noelle's left knee suffered a severe injury by being twisted during a day's walk on Tuesday 22 May. The cruciac ligament was badly torn and we had to abandon the walk, then and there, and return from Burgos, Spain to New Zealand, arriving on Wednesday 13 June. We were very disappointed with our abrupt stop to the walk to Santiago de Compostela and vowed to return another year to complete the pilgrim walk. We had completed only 175 kilometres

2. 21 August to 7 October 2003

Noelle and I returned to the Camino with our mountain bikes to cycle from Burgos to Santiago de Compostela. Our second time on the Camino and the cycling was easier than walking and we arrived at Santiago on 6 September 2003. We had cycled for 15 days, 623 kilometres. We were both overjoyed at our successful completion of the pilgrim walk. We returned to England via the north of Spain along the Atlantic coast line stopping at larger towns, refugios and pensions on our way to Bilbao, where we caught the P&O ferry to Portsmouth arriving in the UK on 7 October 2003. We had cycled 1,212.3 kilometres in Spain. Noelle especially enjoyed the second visit and it was wonderful to see her vivacity and spirituality during our journey as pilgrims. Moments never to forget.

3. Friday 27 July to Wednesday 19 September 2007

Des with pilgrim statue.

This time Brian and I walked the complete Camino from Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela, a distance of 774 kilometres. This third time for me was a memorial walk in memory and honour to my first wife, Daughan, and to Noelle, my second wife, and it became a very spiritual journey as I felt their presence several times along the way. We arrived in Santiago on Wednesday 12 September 2007. I experienced two highlights:

Firstly, when laying the two memorial stones with their names inscribed on them, at the base of the 'Cruz de Ferro', in their memory, according to ancient pilgrim tradition for your loved ones.

Secondly, arriving safely at Santiago, attending the midday pilgrim mass at the Cathedral, obtaining the 'Compostella' from the church authorities and having a celebratory lunch with other pilgrims that we met along the way. For me, a letting go of the last of my grief at Noelle's loss and I felt the future would become brighter again. For Brian, it was for his mother, Daughan, that he walked the pilgrim route in her memory.

The memory of these days on the Camino will always be etched in my mind as a physical, spiritual and meditative journey.

Failing health

However, in April 2011 Des's health really began to fail, and after a bout in hospital, he moved out to Whitby for several months to stay with his daughter Dale to recuperate. When he went back home in August, he soon found he was unable to care for himself so he went back to Whitby. He had to cancel two trips he had planned, but he made it through his 85th birthday, Christmas and the New Year.

Des finally succumbed to his illness at 5.55 am on Friday 6 January 2012 at Wellington Hospital, in the presence of his eldest daughter Dale and son-in-law Mike. His funeral was at St Teresa's Church in Karori on 11 January, with limited military honours, and he is buried at Paraparaumu Beach with his first wife Daughan.

At the time of his death, Desmond was survived by his eight children, 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.


Desmond is remembered on three headstones - a memorial plaque at Andersons Bay Cemetery, Dunedin, with Noelle at Makara Cemetery, and with Daughan at Paraparaumu Beach Cemetery:

Memorial plaaque - Desmond Sharp - Andersons Bay, Dunedin.

Headstone - Desmond Sharp - Makara Cemetery.

Headstone, Paraparaumu Beach Cemetery.


Information for this page came from Desmond's own memoirs, photo albums and other personal papers, and stories related to his daughter Dale.

The Andersons Bay photo was taken by Margaret Bremner, the Makara headstone by Dale Hartle, and the Paraparaumu headstone by Glover Memorials.

Paraparaumu Beach Cemetery online links: Desmond Sharp, Daughan Sharp.