New Zealand Veteran of Anti-Nazi Campaign in Greece Haddon Donald Dies

Portrait of Captain Haddon Vivian Donald, Military Cross, World War II. Taken at Maadi, Egypt, on 23 October 1942 by an official photographer. Photo: Public domain / National Library

New Zealand former National MP and Second World War veteran Haddon Donald has died in Masterton at the age of 101.

He was the oldest living former New Zealand Member of Parliament, and at the time of his death, was the highest-ranking New Zealand army officer of World War II living.

He joined the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in 1939. During the Second World War he was an officer in the 22nd Battalion, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

He fought in Greece against the Germans near Mount Olympus and in at the Maleme airfield as part of the Battle of Crete.

Donald later wrote about his experiences soldiering in Greece, Crete and Egypt in the book In Peace and War: A Civilian Soldier’s Story, published in 2005.

Here is an abstract from the book describing the battle at the foot of Olympus:

The 22nd Battalion traveled north from Piraeus, the port of Athens, by train and soon found itself astride one of the main lines of the German advance at the foot of Mount Olympus. Much history had been made on this ancient battleground and we were to add an uncomfortable footnote. As a division we were reasonably well supplied with personal weapons and artillery, but there was a woeful shortage of supporting tanks and aircraft. We had never been in battle and were facing superbly trained and equipped forces which had swept everything before them during the past two years. As a nation, the Germans had been preparing for war for nearly a decade and they had won every battle so far. As page 21 expected, on April 6 1941 they invaded Greece and two days later we were frantically digging in at the foot of Mount Olympus.

From our vantage point, we watched the Germans approaching in an endless column down the main road towards us, preceded by motor cycles with machine gun equipped side-cars. Troop vehicles, tanks and artillery could be seen in close packed formation, but there was not a plane of our own in sight. They had mostly been taken by surprise and shot up on the ground. A reconnaissance plane hovered overhead, so we did not give our positions away until the last moment. Then, as the Germans approached, our engineers fired a demolition charge in the road ahead of them and the column came to a halt. Our artillery — mortars and machine guns — then opened up and created havoc. The Germans knew then that they had run into something solid.

Donald was awarded the Military Cross in 1942, and the Distinguished Service Order in 1945. In 1947 he was made an Officer of the Legion of Merit by the United States.