Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fight that helped end hostilities at home


Attending the Anzac Day service used to be an annual routine for World War II veteran Daniel Chan Lee.

But the 93-year-old former transport soldier at 7 Royal Military Transport Unit says he is now too old for parades and will instead spend tomorrow remembering those who died fighting for New Zealand, including his brother.

Willie, his elder brother, who served as a fighter pilot in the Air Force, died when his plane crashed in Cheshire, England, in 1942.

Mr Lee, one of six boys, also had a younger brother, Harry, who served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

Mr Lee said New Zealand in those days had laws that discriminated against the Chinese, who were singled out as "undesirable aliens".

It had regulations such as the poll-tax, tonnage ratio, literacy test and thumb printing to limit the number of Chinese coming to New Zealand.

However, Mr Lee said many of the local-born Chinese still considered it to be an honour to be able to serve the country as soldiers, and he said the Army was a "like a different world".

"There was no racism there because we were all united with a common desire of wanting to serve our country, our home."

Mr Lee said his brother Willie is proof of how "colour blind New Zealand gets" when it comes to the Anzacs and other soldiers who died at war. Willie's name is listed on the Roll of Honour in Auckland War Memorial Museum's Hall of Memories.

"It didn't matter that he was Chinese; Willie was treated just as every other fallen soldier in the war."

Mr Lee said it had been his dream to fight overseas, but the Army said he looked too much like a Japanese.

Dr Manying Ip, an associate professor of Asian studies at the University of Auckland, wrote in her book Dinkum Aliens: Chinese New Zealanders in World War II: "In spite of their marginalised status, the hostile social climate, and their very small number (2,943 in the 1936 census), patriotic Chinese New Zealanders, mostly local-born, served in the Air Force, Army and Home Guard.

"World War II marked the crucial turning point for the Chinese community in New Zealand," Professor Ip wrote.

"The status of Chinese rose markedly, and Chinese market-gardeners [who grew produce for the troops] were classified as essential industry workers, their patriotic fundraising efforts within New Zealand and the valiant war resistance back in China were praised and acknowledged."

Mr Lee said he would not attend a service this year.

"By serving in the Army, the Chinese proved that we are just as loyal to New Zealand as anyone else, and I guess in that alone, the victory is ours."

Chinese had barred from naturalisation since 1908, but after World War II, New Zealand laws were changed to allow them to apply for citizenship.

On the web: The Auckland War Memorial Museum has a Book of Remembrance on its website for people to post messages on to remember those who served and died in war.

Article by Lincoln Tan 24/4/2008
Source Retrieved 27/4/2010


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