16026 Leading Seaman JKR Mihaere, RNZN
2-Clasp GSM 1962 - Diver
The fascinating and scarce General Service Medal w/clasps 'Borneo' and 'Malay Peninsula' awarded to 16026 Leading Seaman JKR Mihaere of HMZNS Royalist, who later became a RNZN Diver, and in that capacity was involved in the investigation into the sinking of the Wahine in 1968.
Note: The service file for Mihaere has not been obtained, therefore his service information is effectively unknown and unconfirmed. Mihaere's full name is yet to be confirmed, but he would appear to be James K Reginald Mihaere, born in Opotiki around 1941. He completed at least three years at high school and was involved in school cadets. He appears to have enlisted while still at school, in 1957. In 2003 Mihaere recorded an oral history, with excerpts of this being used in the Military Veterans Kaupapa Inquiry on behalf of the Waitangi Tribunal. Mihaere noted the reason he joined the RNZN: The day the boats came in, two of them, the sailors were dressed up in their navy blue uniforms and they looked pretty flash looking guys. I had an uncle who was in the Navy at the time and I had only seen him in his uniform, I had never seen any Petty Officers or Chiefs or Lieutenants in uniform and that impressed me a bit, the uniform, on how different it was from the Army uniform. It looked quite smart. Then we finally took our trip on the ML [motor launch] to Whakatane. We got out to the bar and a lot of my schoolmates they hadn’t been to the bar before, but I was used to it and as we were going over the bar you could see the waves were getting bigger... So once we got past the bar it was smooth sailing. Halfway there a lot of my schoolmates were sick and when we got to Whakatane that sold me on the Navy.
Mihaere served as a radar operator, and it is presumed it was in this capacity that he served on HMNZS Royalist through the Indonesian Confrontation in the 1960s. He later became a specialist diver, and in April 1968 Mihaere was one of a small team of Navy divers who dived on the stricken Wahine, to assess the damage. Mihaere said "the reef was like a file to the bottom of the ship, like a huge file and it just cut bits out. One of the holes was about a hundred feet long...and one hole you could drive a Mini through."
Mihaere appears to have retired in the rank of Chief Petty Officer in the mid-1970's. Records suggest he married Joan Phillips at Portsmouth in the UK, but this is unconfirmed.
The GSM is correctly impressed 16026 LS JKR MIHAERE HMNZS ROYALIST