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 A Quiet Restoration of Veterans’ Graves at Martinborough Public Cemetery 

September 12, 2020 September 2020 No Comments

Over the past year, a quiet change has been happening at Martinborough Public Cemetery.  Volunteers of the New Zealand Remembrance Army, with support and guidance from the South Wairarapa District Council, have been restoring the graves of New Zealanders who served their country during times of military conflict. Now, the memory of New Zealand veterans, primarily of the Great War (or First World War) has found new prominence in Martinborough’s picturesque landscape.

The New Zealand Remembrance Army (NZRA) came into being in early 2019 to recognise the contribution of over 350,000 men and women who left our shore to do their duty in the service of New Zealand’s military forces.

 NZRA’s goal is that every service grave in New Zealand is restored to the same standards as those New Zealanders who fought and died overseas and who are now cared for in perpetuity by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Beyond Anzac Day and other prominent commemorative events, our approach is that any day can be a commemorative opportunity for those willing to pick up a scrubbing brush and apply a little bit of paint.

So far several dozen services’ graves have been restored in the Martinborough Cemetery, the results of which are in evidence in the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos accompanying this story. NZRA-associated volunteers have been a cross-section of Martinborough’s population: permanent residents who have generously given their time in progressively more frequent local restoration forays; families from ‘over the hill’ who have quietly and steadily restored graves on weekend visits throughout last summer.

Those graves cleaned to date have also been a cross-section of New Zealand’s contribution to the First and Second World Wars. Individual stories include one of the few New Zealanders to be incarcerated in a German Prisoner of War Camp during World War One, a Maori Pioneer Battalion winner of the Military Medal and a memorial grave to two local brothers who were killed within months of each other during the Third Ypres offensive in late 1917.  An article on these individuals will follow later in the year.

Into Spring 2020 NZRA volunteers will restart activities aimed at completing restoration of granite graves in the services’ section and cleaning and restoring several memorial graves scattered throughout the cemetery. 

If you have relatives who have served New Zealand’s military forces, are buried in Martinborough Cemetery and would like their grave restored (if not already done), please contact NZRA through its Facebook page. Equally, if you have loved ones who served in New Zealand’s armed forces, who rest in Martinborough Cemetery and do not wish their grave to be cleaned, please contact NZRA or Trish Drury, Amenities Coordinator at the South Wairarapa District Council (emailing Trish.Drury@swdc.govt.nz).

 

Lest we forget.

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