St Stephens, Andy McKie, Why We Joined



I was reading a news feed the other day and the following headline caught my eye: "Old boys return to St Stephen's School at Bombay for cleanup towards reopening." St Stephen's sadly closed its doors in 2000 following hard financial times and reports of and investigations into bullying. (Sound familiar?) Now, however, it looks like the School is headed towards a progressive re-opening starting in 2022.

If you were in the First  XV in the era when RF Cadet School played St Stephen's in an annual sports fixture, you may have had a trip to the school, which had an impressive set of buildings and grounds  on the Bombay Hills, south of Auckland. (Well, a bit better than our Waiouru barracks, but they didn't have a volcano for scenery.) I'm not sure of our rugby win-loss record, but I strongly suspect we were on the debit side of the ledger, considering the number of their players who made the NZ Secondary School reps:

1978: Hemi Ratapu, Michael Kameta
1979: George Sterling
1980: Mackie Herewini
1982: George Hawera, Mackie Herewini
1984: Wiremu Maunsell, John Smyth, Patrick Rae
1985: Wiremu Maunsell, Dallas Seymour, Haydn Ferris,
1986: Sam Stirling, Lee Lidgard, Darryl Wells
1987: Darryl Wells
1988: Tony Barchard
1989: Gilbert Kelly
1991: Reuben Parkinson, Deon Muir, Kuru Gray
1992: Robert Katene
1995: Issac Richmond
1996: Hare Makiri
1998: Shannon Paku

Tribute - One of Our Own

Warrant Officer Class One Andrew Scott McKie, RNZAMC, Upham VC Class

I would like to acknowledge the assistance of Lt Col (Rtd) John Dyer, NZGD, RNZA, who is currently a national board member of the Red Cross for help in the preparation of this Tribute.

The Army Bit

Andy arrived in Waiouru as a member of Upham VC Class in January 1971 graduating into the RNZAMC in May 1972. While also posted to camp hospitals in Waiouru, Trentham and Papakura, his employment preference  was as a field medic and it is in that role that the majority of his service was rendered.   A number of demanding appointments followed in the ensuing twenty years in New Zealand, the Pacific and South East Asia.  This included supporting the RNZE Argo Road project, two tours to the Regimental Aid Post (RAP) of 1 RNZIR, Singapore including its final deployment, the RAP of 2/1 RNZIR, and the medical cell at 1 NZSAS Group.  He was also attached to 22 SAS at Hereford on Exercise Long Look.  He was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1986 and took his discharge in November 1991.

The following sums up Andy’s career and character.  The author is the widely respected and decorated Vietnam Veteran and military physician, Brigadier Brian McMahon,  CBE:

I have known Andrew McKie from the time he joined the New Zealand Army in 1971 and have worked closely with him a various times during the last twenty years.

 From his earliest days in the Regular Force Cadet School he has displayed a fierce determination to advance his knowledge and skills across a broad spectrum.  In the medical field, his training and experience in curative, preventative and administrative medicine has enabled him to function at a high level, both in New Zealand and overseas.  He has also had the advantage of training in many ancillary fields.   He is capable of operating heavy earth moving equipment, handling advanced communication systems and surviving in adverse conditions being some examples.

Andrew has established himself as a leader, with the ability to carry his people with him on the basis of his own outstanding skills, together with an outgoing, friendly personality.  He has had the opportunity to live and work in the Pacific and South East Asia and to develop a high level of cultural sensitivity as a consequence.

I would commend Andrew McKie to an employer who values integrity, loyalty and a proven ability to cope in adverse circumstances.  He plans his work with care and attention to detail and can be relied on absolutely.

He has my unqualified recommendation and I would be happy to answer any specific questions concerning his character and background.

The Red Cross Bit

After leaving the NZ Army Andrew spent some time in Vanuatu where not only did he run a bar, but he also held the role of Secretary General of the Vanuatu Red Cross.  In 1995 Andrew decided that it was time to return to NZ.  Primarily to enable his children to complete their education in NZ.  On his return he secured a position as the projects manager with NZRC.

It wasn’t long before Andrew found himself running the International Programmes, selecting and deploying personnel, or as they are known across the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, delegates, to missions with either the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) or the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). He was also responsible for the Pacific Programme which provided development support to Pacific Island National Red Cross Societies and relief aid following natural disasters. The Pacific Programme allowed him to reconnect with many contacts throughout the Pacific and in typical Andrew fashion ensure that the programmes were fit for purpose. The International focus of course extended beyond the Pacific, as NZRC Delegates, who have a great reputation through the Red Cross, were always in high demand.  Managing the Delegate Programme was not too unlike a lot of the work that he did training and developing soldiers in the Army.  In terms of activity the role was also not unlike the military, down time interspersed with time of frenetic activity when a cyclones or other disasters hit one or more islands in the Pacific.  Looking beyond the Pacific Andrew was also responsible for coordinating the NZRC response to global disasters and some of note included the 2004 Asian Tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan Earthquakes, 2010 Haiti Earthquake and 2010 Pakistan floods.  For his service in Iraq Andy was awarded the Operational Service Medal and the Iraq General Service Medal.

Always known for his pragmatic approach, during his time running International Programmes Andrew was approached by the Secretary General to look at options to establish an Emergency Response Unit (ERU).  These are a distinct deployable capacity which may be a medical facility from a full surgical hospital to mobile treatment centre, water and sanitation unit, logistics unit, relief distribution unit, IT and telecommunications unit or a unit with some other capacity.  ERUs respond with the IFRC, and generally, once the mission is complete, the equipment capacity is handed over to the Government of local community to maintain.  Various National Societies have established them and given NZRC’s areas of expertise in health, a health or water and sanitation unit was suggested.  Being well aware of the costs involved, together with the difficulties in maintaining capacity in these areas, he recognised that long term, such an ERU was not going to fly.  However, something smaller but aligned with NZ’s growing technology sector might.  The proposal was therefore amended to develop capacity around and IT and Telecommunications or as he termed it at the time, a telephone in a suitcase.  As a result. the NZRC IT and Telecommunication ERU was born. Today this ERU is held in high regard across the movement for the work that it does not only in deploying and providing the communication capacity for operations, but also for the ongoing work that it does assisting pacific Island National Societies to develop more robust communication networks within the pacific region.

Andrew stepped away from International Programmes and picked up the role of managing domestic disaster response capabilities within NZRC.  Shortly thereafter Christchurch was hit by its earthquake in 2011.  NZRC responded well to this catastrophe both through its volunteers supporting the community and then through its management and distribution of the millions of dollars in relief funds.  A review into the NZRC response did identify that the NZRC response capacity should look at focusing more of the areas where NZRC is strong namely; community engagement, needs assessments and welfare.  More technical areas such as urban search and rescue which require specialist skill and equipment and high levels of certified training were best left to emergency services.  Ever the pragmatist, Andrew and his team then worked on a proposal and the NZRC Disaster Welfare and Support Teams (DWST) were born.  Again, in establishing these teams Andrew’s knowledge and experience in developing operational capacity came to the fore.  Today these teams, which are located throughout NZ, respond to disasters, and either individuals deploy to support other teams or multiple teams deploy to boast capacity in an area hit be a disaster.  This capacity has become a recognised and welcomed response capacity in communities hit by disaster and is key pillar in the NZRC strategic plan.

His focus on the domestic side also meant travel around NZ.  Which of course also meant catching up with old friends.  One being Brigadier (Rtd) Brian McMahon.  At the time, Jenny McMahon, the Brigadier’s daughter and previous long term ICRC Delegate was on the NZRC Board; she would later be the President for two terms. Jenny remarked how Andrew would always visit and between him and her father they would solve many of the world’s problems – supported by a good bottle of whiskey of course.

Somewhere around this time and while working on the establishment of the DWSTs Andrew found himself as one of the longest serving and most experienced managers within NZRC.  As such he also found himself as acting Secretary General for period after the incumbent stepped down and while the Board searched for a replacement.  He decided early on that he didn’t see himself in the role long term, but was happy to keep the seat warm while a new SG was found.  A new SG was found and Andrew moved back into his DM role and focused on developing capacity there.

24 years of contribution to NZRC is significant and it was testament to the regard with which Andrew was held that at his farewell several people who were no longer employed by the organisation turned up to wish him well, as did a number of Board members past and present. 24 years of corporate knowledge is a lot to see walk out the door, but in true Andrew fashion he left behind a number of well indexed folders that could be referred to if needed.  Prior to his retirement, partly in recognition of his service and partly with an eye to the future, NZRC supported his request to attend an archive course in Geneva Switzerland, the home of the ICRC and IFRC.  After an appropriate time off, extended somewhat due to COVID, Andrew is now called on to support NZRC Branches to sort through their historical documents and items of interest to preserve the history of NZRC.  During the 2020 National Conference/AGM one of the displays that created significant interest was on historical documents and items of interested going back through NZRC’s 100 year history.  A display made possible by input from Andrew – a man with two long careers serving NZ - the NZ Army and the NZRC.

The McKie family have a very proud history serving the country from the Boer war through to East Timor.  Two great uncles were awarded military medals, a level three gallantry award, during WW1. One a stretcher bearer the other an infantry machine gunner.   Andrew’s son James joined the British Army after seven years’ service and two tours to East Timor with our Army where, like his father, he served as a medic.  In the UK, James, now an infantryman, was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, a level two gallantry award and second only to the Victoria Cross while serving with the 3rd Battalion, the Rifles, in Afghanistan.  Andrew and Sandy attended Buckingham Palace for the investiture.  A very proud occasion for them indeed.


Andrew’s service with both the army and the Red Cross places him among our foremost graduates, another exemplar that again underscores the valuable contribution the Regular Force Cadet School has made to our country.  Fortes Fortuna Juvat.

Thanks to Bob Davies for coordinating this tribute.


Military Arts

I got to thinking the other day about the reasons we joined RF Cadets (someone asked me - not for the first time - why I joined the Army). My response was pretty stock standard - I wanted (unlike most Clubbies) to keep going to school, as I was being kicked out of home and wouldn't have been able to continue. But there were lots of reasons why we joined. I have summarised a few of them in the following list, which features in "Home Base", my RF Cadet memoir:

Why we joined

get away from home
Dad and uncles were in the War
do an apprenticeship - the Army is the best!
the local cop told my parents I would end up in borstal
get out in the bush
I’d get paid
be a chef/mechanic/plumber/electrician/builder
my father said it would sort me out
it’s a family tradition
my brother was in Cadets
be a soldier
the recruiter made it sound pretty good
get away from the town’s bad boys
there would be plenty to eat
leave school
continue school

RF Cadet School Trivia

Last month we asked the question: Who was the other ex RF Cadet who coached the Māori All Blacks (besides Warwick McCallion)?

Answer: Matt Te Pou, Crump Class (the same class as Warwick - must have been something in the water that year!).

We will feature Matt in a tribute in the near future.

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