Kapiti soldier receives long-overdue recognition
April 11, 2017
Fifty-one years after dying in action in Vietnam, Kapiti solider, staff sergeant Graham (Dick) Grigg, has been given the recognition he deserves with the unveiling of a memorial plaque at the Paraparaumu Memorial Arch.
Recognition was “long-overdue”, said Paraparaumu RSA President Chris Turver who hosted the ceremony attended by local Vietnam War veterans, including John Taylor, of Otaki, who fought alongside Grigg in Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City.
Taylor, now in his early seventies, recalled arriving in Vietnam in 1965 surrounded by hundreds of American soldiers. Grigg, who had been in Saigon for some time, took Taylor under his wing.
“He showed me the ropes,” Taylor said. “Most nights Dick would be at the bar. He would have them make this drink he liked – a Tom Collins.
“I don’t know what went into it, but the barman would shake the hell out if it. We’d have one every night.”
On December 3, 1965, the pair chatted over a Tom Collins as usual then said good night. It was the last time Taylor would see his mate alive.
Taylor remembers the sound of automatic gunfire the next morning followed by a “huge bang”.
Grigg died instantly when a Viet Cong van, laden with explosives, was detonated outside the Metropole Hotel where he was billetted.
His body was found about 35 metres from where the bomb exploded.
“I know exactly what he would have been doing,” Taylor said. “He would have been leaning out of the window. He always wanted to know what was going on.”
Turver, who met Grigg in Vietnam, remembers him as a caring and kind man.
“Grigg was moved by the orphan casualties of the Vietnam War.”
He launched a public appeal in New Zealand for the Binh Lo Roman Catholic orphanage on the outskirts of Saigon. The appeal continued for eight years after his death.
“The appeal raised more than $12,000 in cash and provided huge shipments of clothes and toys.” Turver said.
Grigg, service number 645140, was born in Napier in 1933 but grew up in Waikanae. He enlisted in the army in 1957 and served as a medic during conflicts in Singapore and Malaya.
At the ceremony, Taylor solemnly read the Ode of Remembrance, a traditional memorial reading. “I was quite nervous, I’ve never read the Ode, ever.”
When asked if the ceremony had brought him closure Taylor said: “There’s no closure date on something like this, it’s just part of a process. That sort of thing never gets out of your mind.”
Grigg was posthumously awarded the South Vietnamese Military Medal in 2003 by then Prime Minister Helen Clark.