Bryan James PETERSEN
18 March 1947 – 14 September 1968
Killed in Action
Burried in the Eketahuna Cemetary
During Operation HAWKESBURY in Long Khan Province on 14 September 1968.
As the result of intelligence indicating a likely consignment of rockets being moved from east to west,
W Company was unexpectedly uplifted by helicopter and moved north into the Don Dien de Courtenay
rubber plantation early on the 14th. Soon after dispersing from the Landing Zone a platoon had a clash
with an unknown sized group of enemy deployed along a stream bed. Pte BJ Petersen of the platoon was
killed by a sniper in a concealed hole in the ground during a search of the area. Later that day there was
another clash with two enemy and another with three the following day.
Bryan was the eldest of 4 children, born in Eketahuna to Jim & Vera (nee Churchill from Kakahi).
His schooling was at Eketahuna Primary, then when Tararua College opened in Pahiatua, was one of the
founding students at the new college. After leaving school he completed a butchers apprenticeship with the
local butcher in Eketahuna. Then at the age of 18 he was called up for national service, he happily went off
to Waiouru to do his bit for his country, as his father had done in the Second World War and his great
uncles in the First World War. (Obviously joined the regular force back then) I just recently re-read all of the
letters my mother kept. These were letters Bryan had written to my mother & father, describing his
adventures, starting with his time on his basic in Waiouru, then at Burnham & on to his Vietnam
experiences. I can state very clearly Bryan loved the army, he had found his career. After the 68 stint in
Vietnam he had every intention of re-enlisting and if he could, probably would have gone over there again.
My memory of my big brother are those of a very caring and thoughtful person, who looked out for his little
sister (me), who always thought of others before himself, who was very well liked in the community of both
Eketahuna and Nireaha, which is where we as a family were living while Bryan was in Vietnam. Before he
left for Vietnam there was a big dance at the local hall in Nireaha, the whole community came to wish him
luck and a safe return. As he was due to return home in the November of 68, plans were already underway
for another big dance, again for everyone in the area, to celebrate his safe return. When we were awaken
in the dead of the night in the September of 1968, by the local constable and the Chairman of the local RSA
to tell my parents the contents of a telegram which had arrived......that was the day my mother’s world
changed forever. To bring my brother home, the family had to fund the cost, as the government at the time
(Holyoake administration) refused. The community of both Eketahuna and Nireaha came to our assistance
by way of donating their own hard earned money to my father. Once the money was paid, my brother was
brought home and buried in the Eketahuna RSA section. Bryan was survived by two younger brothers, one
served in the Territorials, the other in the Navy, a younger sister, who also served in the army and his
mother & father. All of these people except myself have now passed on with three also resting in the
Eketahuna RSA section along with Bryan.
The man may have gone, but he is never forgotten.
( Written by Linda Haddon, sister of Pte BJ Petersen)