Massive loss: Duncan Robertson, who died last week aged 100


One of the Whakatipu’s last surviving World War 2 veterans, Duncan Robertson has died, aged 100.

Robertson, who died at Lakes District Hospital last Thursday, was the second local to make it to a century recently, after fellow veteran, the late Alex McBurney, reached the mark last June.

Mountain Scene understands that leaves Allan Fisher, 96, as the Whakatipu’s sole surviving veteran of the conflict.

Scene last caught up with Duncan just before his birthday in January.

He hadn’t expected to live past last Christmas, and 100 years was a long time to be alive, he said.

‘‘I feel like I’m cheating some how’’.

Duncan lived in a cottage on his son’s farm at Speargrass Flat for the last 18 years of his life following the death of his wife, Margaret.

Determined to live independently, he did much of his own cooking and cleaning, and  tended a large garden.

Only a few weeks earlier, he’d been scolded by his son after being caught up a ladder cleaning his cottage’s spouting.

He spent two-and-a-half years with the 2nd New Zealand Division’s 18th Armoured Regiment in Italy, ending the war as a sergeant.

Driving armoured cars, often in a scouting role, he saw action at Cassino and other notable battles, and was injured twice after being struck by shell fragments in the head and foot.

The experience, and the deaths of several school mates and fellow army trainees, had given him an acute sense of his mortality, he said.

‘‘I nearly lost my life in ’43 and ’44 … when I got back, I told myself, ‘I’ve come through a war, I’ve had two near-misses, so look after yourself — you don’t get too many chances after that’.’’

He’s survived by two sons, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.