The idea for this project came about by chance. For every Anzac Day as long as I can remember my family had always remembered the World War II loss of my mother’s first husband, Ian Leslie Gough, in Egypt, and the loss of her brother, William (Bill) Gordon Bain, in Crete. Poppies would be placed on their photographs which hung on either side of the fireplace. That's Ian top right and Bill bottom right.
A good few years ago, when my mother fell ill and was admitted to hospital, I visited an old friend of her’s to let her know what was happening to Mum. Although they were too old to visit each other on a regular basis they kept in touch by phone. Joyce was my Uncle Bill’s fiancée and, although she had happily married later, she told me she thought of him every day and all she really wanted was a picture of his grave.
Time passed and Joyce moved out of Auckland, but it nagged me that I hadn’t managed to get a picture of Bill’s grave for her. It wasn’t until a friend visited Crete, that I managed, with her help. to fulfil my promise. The picture of Bill’s grave is shown below and, of course, in our searchable archive.
In the process of thinking about how to obtain the photograph I wondered if other people ended up in a similar position, and from there I developed the idea of virtual war cemeteries and a digital roll of honour.
The history of how the project has developed over the years is given in more detail in page The History of the Project.
They say there is “nothing new under the sun” and while researching this project we found that some countries had already embarked on similar projects but without the comprehensiveness and detail that we envisaged.
Although the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has a very useful website (www.cwgc.org/), it is not what we had in mind as a lasting on-line memorial to New Zealand’s war dead. The Auckland War Memorial Museum has developed a comprehensive on-line database, Cenotaph, and they have agreed that the material gathered in this project will complement their site.