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News > Announcements > Obituaries > VAL WERE (38-41)

VAL WERE (38-41)

25 May 2021
Val & Joy Were December 2008
Val & Joy Were December 2008

VAL WERE (38-41)

Val (Valentine) Were died on May 1st, 2019 aged 96 as the OP Society discovered in 2021. As far as is known, he is the only New Zealand-born person ever to attend the College at Pangbourne. His daughter Virginia writes:

“Val was born in Matamata, New Zealand, in June 1923 to farmers Bill and Mary Were. The events that led to him travelling to England to attend the Nautical College, Pangbourne when he was 15 were unexpected, tragic and serendipitous. His father Bill passed away in 1930, when Val was seven and, finding it hard to cope on the small dairy farm on her own, his mother Mary sailed back to England where she came from, leaving Val in the care of his aunt and uncle. During the voyage, Mary met a British army officer, Major Phillip Anstruther, who eventually became Val’s stepfather. Phillip suggested a naval career and Val sailed to England to join his mother and stepfather. He enrolled at Pangbourne in 1938, completing four years of school combined with naval instruction.

In 1942 Val joined the Royal Navy as a Midshipman and in September was posted to Scarpa Flow in Scotland. He served in the North Atlantic in the battle ship HMS Howe. The following year he was posted to the Mediterranean where he witnessed the surrender of the Italian fleet.  Around this time, he was encouraged by his skipper to join the newly-forming Royal New Zealand Navy. In 1944 Val sailed to New Zealand in the HMNZS Arabis and made several cruises around the Pacific, including the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Fiji. In 1947 he returned to the England for further training and participated in sea trials of frigates for the RNZN. 

In the late-1940s Val met his future wife Joy on a beach at Motuihe Island near Auckland and they married in 1950. Their son Tony was born in 1951 and in 1953 Val was appointed second in command of HMNZS Kaniere. He then did a 12-month tour based in Japan and patrolling off the coast of North Korea. In 1956 he received his first command – Captain of Kaniere - returning to Korean waters for a year.

Val’s career at sea ended in 1958 when he was posted to Navy Office in Wellington, a job he enjoyed less than being at sea. The following year he was posted to Canberra where he was the Defence Liaison Attaché at the New Zealand High Commission for three years. Daughter Virginia was born in Canberra in 1960. The family returned to Auckland for several years before, in 1965, Val was posted to Singapore as the Defence Liaison Attaché for two years. He left the RNZN in 1969 after serving for 27 years. During his career he was awarded 15 medals.

Following his naval career, Val worked in several civilian roles and he and Joy built a house in Auckland in the early 1970s where they stayed for over 40 years. They both loved to travel, making several trips to Australia, Europe and North Amercia. On weekends they sailed their 35-foot yacht Alberti, and Val continued to command his own ship well into his eighties. Joy was, perhaps, not as obedient as the naval sailors Val was used to.

Sadly, Joy was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and in 2013 they moved into an apartment in a retirement village. Val became her devoted carer, and she died there in 2016.

Becoming increasingly frail himself, Val moved to Northbridge Rest Home in 2018 and died there on May 1st, 2019.

Today Val is greatly missed by his children who remember his great enjoyment of language and story and the way he would resurrect anachronistic words like ‘gloaming’ and ‘snipemarsh’ and ‘mare’s tails’ – those wispy clouds that are restless and on the move, much like himself. He was always curious about weather and world affairs – systems and events which unfolded beyond the sheltered cove of his personal life. His innate curiosity embraced many subjects and kept his conversation lively throughout his long and eventful life. His kindness to his family, and his stoicism in the face of storm fronts and misfortune, are also remembered with love and gratitude.”

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