Sixty years ago members of the James Cummings Cadet Wing commenced their Police cadet training at Trentham – and they’ve just held a record 19th reunion.
“We believe 19 is a record and no other wing, cadet or recruit, have participated in that number of reunions,” says Colin Lines, who is ‘keeper of records’ for the wing.
Eighteen members of the wing attended the reunion - held in Dunedin over four days in late March - along with wives and partners.
“We’re a close-knit bunch. A lot of enduring friendships have developed over the years.”
Strong bonds were developed by the wing right from the beginning.
“After living in the old barracks in Trentham for our training it’s not a wonder we stayed friends. We were three to a room, no doors - just curtains, and it could be freezing cold. Nothing like the great facilities at the Police College today.”
The conditions forged a spirit of comradeship, shared experience and enduring friendship which has been celebrated at every one of the 19 reunions.
Thirty-nine cadets were appointed to the wing on 13 January 1959. One cadet resigned after a brief period – but came to the reunions for many years - and two further cadets were appointed in February 1959, bringing the number back to 40 which was the expected number for each cadet wing at this time.
“We’ve lost quite a number of the originals over the years. One member, Bryan Schultz, was shot and killed on duty at Lower Hutt in February 1963 and another member, Robin Thompson, was killed in a police car crash in the Manawatu Gorge in May 1973.
“We also had one member who joined the SAS and was killed while on military exercises in the Philippines in 1981. And another 11 have died from natural causes.”
Fittingly, the Victoria Hotel where they stayed for the reunion lies between the old and the new Dunedin Police stations. “We could walk to just about everywhere, including to the Dunedin Police Club which was opened for us one evening - and Bert Hill, former District Commander in Dunedin, joined us for a drink.”
Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha was to have been the guest speaker at the final dinner, but the mosque attacks in Christchurch meant that he couldn’t attend. Father Dan Cummings, retired former Police Chaplain at Dunedin - and member of the Cummings Police family - took his place.
The group visited a number of the local sights including the Chinese Gardens, Speights Brewery, the Taieri Gorge Railway and the Orokonui Ecosanctuary.
And as for the highlights of the reunion? “Just being with old wing mates for three to four days.”