Restoration work on war graves begins

A restoration project aimed at protecting Cambridge’s war graves is underway, and RSA member Alan Sherris wants to hear from families either linked to the graves or interested in the restoration programme itself.

The move to protect the resting places of those affiliated with New Zealand’s military past is tied to a national effort launched last year by New Zealand Remembrance Army.  The initiative is being co-ordinated by the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association (RSA).

The goal, said Alan, is to ensure that every service grave in New Zealand is restored to the same level as those of their comrades overseas.

“Ours is a simple mission.  We recognise the contributions that those who have gone before us have made,” he said, “In 2020, some 21,400 headstones and plaques were restored in communities across New Zealand.  A small group from the Cambridge RSA has committed to pick up this idea and restore the 700 plus gravestones and plaques that commemorate the lives of our local heroes who answered the call of King and country.”

Alan said while Cambridge families are already taking good care of their family members’ resting places, his group is mindful that each grave site is private property and the families’ wishes must be respected.

“We are asking anyone who does not want us to do any restoration work to advise us so we can respect those wishes.”

The first stage of the project was to spray the headstones and plaques to kill the lichen and moss.

Cambridge RSA president Tony Hill said the next phase, the restoration of marble headstones and plaques at Hautapu Cemetery, began with an initial working bee on March 14 where uniformed members of the Hamilton City Cadets and their families spent several hours working on site. The day ended with a flag ceremony and the recitation of ‘The Ode’, the well-known fourth stanza from Laurence Binyon’s poem, ‘For the Fallen’.

Tony said the mid-March working bee on restoring the war graves was the start of an ongoing programme.

Alan said the group wanted to hear from people who want to be involved in the restoration programme.

“We would welcome contact from family members of those whose headstones are to be restored, so we can provide information on how the processes are done.”

Once work has been completed at Hautapu, a programme of work for both Leamington and Pukerimu headstones will be prepared.

Alan suggests people contact him at sofiak@xtra.co.nz.  More information on the New Zealand Remembrance Army is at www.rsa.org.nz/nz-remembrance-army.

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