In March 2020, Madison Pine spoke to Eileen Noon, about her beloved husband Samuel Frank Noon, a Malayan and Thailand veteran Sam was very involved with the veteran community and played a significant role in helping to organise the Auckland War Memorial Museum Anzac Day ceremony.
As public events for Anzac Day 2020 have been cancelled due to COVID-19, we want to acknowledge the contribution Sam and his comrades have made to the Auckland War Memorial Dawn and Civic ceremonies. We hope that New Zealanders take time on April 25 to #StandAtDawn to acknowledge our service personnel. You can also remember them through karakia, quiet contemplation, lively story telling, reading a service record or doing anything that brings the stories and memories of our service personnel to the fore.
Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou
We will remember them
Samuel Frank Noon was born on October 18, 1938 and was raised by his grandmother in Hokianga, Northland, a proud Ngāpuhi tāne. In 1953, Sam decided he would join the New Zealand Armed Forces as a Regular Force Cadet. However, as he was only 15 at the time, he was recruited into military school.
He was accepted into the Shuttleworth Class as an RF Cadet on January 18, 1955. While a cadet he was encouraged to select an apprenticeship choosing the Royal New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineering School, where he completed his Advanced Certified Automotive Engineer apprenticeship. Eileen explained how the values he learned while with the Cadets stayed with him for life: "Discipline, respect, comradeship, hard work, commitment and many other life disciplines which would all form part of his core strength and value for the rest of his life."
After graduation, Sam continued with the New Zealand Defence Force joining the New Zealand Army, and he made a point to continue his education in the military and engineering fields. As a natural leader, he imparted this knowledge to up-and-coming cadets, territorials, and regular-force soldiers.
Eileen and Sam met at his 21st birthday party, in 1959. At the time Eileen was staying at the St. Anne's Hostel as a Netball and Tennis representative. Many of the other girls who stayed there were from Hokianga, and mentioned they needed some helping hands for a 21st in Whirinaki—Sam's 21st. Sam and Eileen would go dancing together, listening to rock & roll and dancing the twist. The couple married in the early 1960s and had four children: Sam, Selena, Tanya, and Lucien; four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
Throughout Sam's military career the family were constantly moving, taking the family to Papakura, Waiouru, Linton and Burnham Military Camps. Eileen remembers the challenges of Sam being away from home for long periods. As with other military families she and the children often wouldn't know where her husband was, or when he would return. However, Eileen recalls how the military families created solid support networks that fostered a sense of community and togetherness. Their homes were always filled with children and friends from around the camps and youth clubs.
Sam served with the 1 New Zealand Regiment, B Company as a Patrol commander in the Terendak Military Camp, in Malaya (now Malaysia) from 1961 to 1963. In this time he became fluent in Malay, and was seconded to Singapore for special troop guard duties.
In 1970, Sam was part of the 5 Specialist Team, under the Colombo Plan Scheme in Thailand. The team provided apprentice training and service for all heavy earth-moving equipment while building a connector road between Mahasarakham and Ubon US Military Air Base. As he had in Malaya, Sam became fluent in the local language. In 1974, he was seconded to the Fiji Military forces as an Engineering Apprentice Training Officer. When he returned to New Zealand he was seconded to the Armoured Squadron at Waiouru, where he provided workshop services for Tanks, Armoured Cars, Bren Gun Carriers, and other military-support vehicles.
While Sam's role with the military often meant he was away, the family bonded over their love of sports. Eileen and Sam were very involved with sports and youth clubs. The entire Noon family are keen sports players, and in particular love indoor basketball. Sam played indoor basketball and rugby league, as well as coaching indoor basketball and softball, and Eileen remains a passionate tennis player. Throughout his army career, Sam was a services representative in Indoor Basketball and Softball in 1969. He was named Sportsman of Year, 1973 by the Palmerston North Basketball Association. He was selected as a New Zealand Services coach in 1974, and honoured with the New Zealand Sports Service Award, 1976. Their son Sam coached his daughter's indoor basketball team at St. Cuthberts and the Manukau Ladies Divisional Teams taking over from Eileen's Sam.
Sam retired from the Army in 1975, with an Honourable Voluntary release and Good Conduct Medal. He had become an avid learner throughout his military career, with extensive experience in military concept development, operational activity, aircraft loading, air photo reading, leadership, cadet training, staff training, instruction and strategic planning, organisational skills and cultural diversity. These skills served him well in "civvy life" and as an incredibly cherished member of the Returned and Services' Association (RSA).
Sam joined the Papakura RSA in 1974, and was deeply involved with this community. He worked alongside many of his old Battalion members, and other veteran groups, helping them access veterans affairs and other services. When veterans sadly passed, he would continue to help their wives and families. In 2015, Sam had another opportunity to help the wider veteran community. At the convincing of Graham Gibson, RSA President, Sam joined the Auckland RSA as an executive member.
During his time as an Auckland RSA Association Executive, Sam worked tirelessly to re-develop the Auckland ANZAC Day parade and ceremonies held at Tāmaki Paenga Hira. Eileen spoke about how devoted he was to this work, how he talked with local RSAs to discuss what they wanted in the parades and ceremonies, how Sam worked with Auckland Museum and Auckland Council to create a process that worked for both parties. He involved cadets from the Navy, Air Force, and Army, helping to provide them with a sense of responsibility, reminiscent of his own cadet days. Sam nurtured the relationship with local iwi, and helped introduce the use of a pūtātara (conch shell) during the ceremony, joining together mana whenua (the people of the land) and the public.
Throughout Sam's time on the Auckland RSA he worked very closely with Vanguard Military School, bringing many of the school's recruits onto the cenotaph as part of the military parade. He also played a significant support role for the students of Vanguard Military School. Nick Hyde, Chairperson of the School Board wrote to the following message to the Online Cenotaph team:
Vanguard Military School was extremely blessed to be taken under its wing by Sam Noon. He along with a number of the contingent at the Auckland RSA become regular visitors to the school sharing their knowledge and experiences with the recruits. A relationship soon developed where Vanguard’s recruits were able to be on the cenotaph at the Auckland War Memorial Museum for ANZAC Day and indeed special services like the marking of the 100 years of Passchendaele and the end of World War 1 where Vanguard recruits spent many days erecting the 28000 crosses. At all of these occasions Sam was the friendly and encouraging face the recruits could rely on. He would provide guidance on protocols and always supported the recruits and staff. Vanguard was honoured to be able to perform our school haka at his funeral as a mark of respect to a great and giving man. He is also honoured with a scholarship in his name being an annual award at the schools graduation to remind us all of his legacy.
Sadly Sam passed away on May 23, 2019. Eileen described Sam as a soldier from the beginning of his life to the end: his trousers always had crisp creases and his shoes always shined. Eileen spoke of how this past year has been a huge time of reflection for herself and her family, how they are striving to live life as Sam would have wanted and how to be the sort of community mind people that Sam embodied.
Sam was a devoted and very well-loved family man who also played a huge role within the veteran community. He is incredibly loved and cherished and made a huge personal contribution to Anzac Day, and to commemorations here at Auckland War Memorial Museum.
Ngā mihi nunui to Eileen and the Noon whānau for sharing a part of Sam with Online Cenotaph.
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Cite this article
Samuel Frank Noon. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 7 April 2020. Updated: 4 May 2021.