Man Down

Some of Bruce’s boys…Signals Platoon Christmas Function, Coes Ford, 1986…

It is with great sadness this morning that I note the passing last night of Bruce Rosser, RNZIR. The word had only gone round the old boys net last week that Bruce was pretty crook with cancer and I was planning on writing to him or shooting over to New Plymouth to see him. Some of the lads did go round to see him at home yesterday morning…I can only agree with what others posted after the visit

” …now that’s what the NZ Army is all about. I can tell looking at all the body language you guys would have had him laughing ……. good on you all. You guys make me proud!!!

… I hope I have friends like this when its my time. Can’t believe there is nearly 150 years of military history in the room. (good and BAD history that is)…

People have commented over the years on how unusual it is that we can not see someone for decades and then carry on the last conversation we had way back then. It’s not that unusual really, just a sign of a community with a highly transient population that is constantly shifting around between postings, courses and deployments.

It was long, only a few hours later that two new messages were posted…

…Guys, only just got back from Brucies place, he past on at 1815hrs tonight. As his “boss” Susie said to me, he just said” I’ve had enough”, and signed out a short time later. So glad the local boys spent time with him this morning, all our aroha to Susie and the children at this time. Will keep all updated on this means…

“…MAN DOWN: NEWS has just com through from the Rosser family that bruce passed away approximately 30 mins ago. God bless you our brother. Deepest thoughts to susie and the family…”

Bruce was our platoon sergeant when I was posted to the 2/1 RNZIR Signals Platoon in 1986, on graduation from Corps Training and after a brief foray into the Mortar Platoon (too much maths for me). He came across as gruff and grumpy as sergeants generally do but was firm but fair as the good ones are and in the same vein fiercely looked out for his troops and went to bat for us on a regular basis. Sometimes that was because soldierly enthusiasm had gone astray (Burnham weekends revolved around the Baggies, the Melly, and ‘town’ – all fine upstanding institutions) but equally as often to right some wrong or get something working.

I think of Bruce on an almost daily basis…every time that I cut a corner on the road, I think of Bruce admonishing me to “…use the whole of the road…” on one of the many trips that members of 2/1 would make through the Lewis Pass. On this particular trip, I was driving ‘the Sarge’ in a V8 Landrover (sounds cool but not one of the Army’s bigger success stories) and he was getting frustrated that I was one of those ‘crank it on the straights, brake it on the corner’ drivers – possibly because my cornering kept waking him up! So for the new few hours, I got some very pointed one-on-one driving instruction that has stuck with me for the last quarter century – all about making the best use of the road available to you…

I think that trip was either going to or returning from the Women’s National Golf Tournament where the sigs provided comms and progress reports from the greens back to the club house. It was a bit of a break for us and a welcome change from Lake Brunner in winter where we did a lot of our training. Through the power of sergeants (like the power of Greyskull or Green Lantern but better and bigger), Bruce had arranged for us to stay in a cheap motel in Nelson for the duration and that our time was our own out of working hours so long as…we avoided certain pubs…everyone was good to go each morning…Bruce didn’t get any calls from the Police or the boss…big boys rules. It was a great week and while my memories of it have faded, my memories of that driving lesson from ‘the Sarge’ is as vivid today as it was back then…I can still see Bruce, in his DPM smock squinting across the Landrover at me “…boy, are you sure you’ve got a licence to drive?…

I don’t recall ever having a  platoon or company photo while I was in 2/1 and so when I searched through the archives at home for some images from those days, the cupboard was rather bare – certainly there are no official photos that I have and no personal one with Bruce in them. The photo above is from our platoon function at the end of 1986 and shows a few of us that Bruce looked after so well…

These two reprobates weren’t in the Signals Platoon although, like everyone else, they wanted to be…but this pic from Ex LOTHLORIEN 1986 shows the bikes and V8 Rovers that Bruce tirelessly made sure we looked after and kept all our paperwork and maintenance up to speed. This would be a part of battalion headquarters and one of our bikes being stolen in this pic – aside from the Sigs who held it all together, battalion headquarters was full of dodgy sorts…

I don’t think that I ever saw Bruce after he was posted from the platoon – I think that he went to a cadre role in one of the TF units – and that’s why I was quite looking forward to seeing him again when we heard that he was ill last week…

Peace be with you, Sarge…no more pain where you are…


5 thoughts on “Man Down

  1. Greetings from Idaho! I’m bored to death at work so I decided to browse your blog on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the information you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home.
    I’m surprised at how quick your blog loaded on my cell phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .
    . Anyways, excellent blog!


  2. Well Simon as a previous member the mighty sigs Pl, I indeed concur about the super shadyness of Bn HQ. Sigs can be a great Pl if you get the mix right and its not a dumping ground. Sounds like Bruce was a solid SSGT, unfortunatly I missed him just getting to the Pl in 89, we had Sig SGT Lewis and inf SSGT Hedgecock both awesome guys. I digress, great blog and great read. Sorry im rather late getting to this


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