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 Gough, in Egypt, and the loss of her brother, Bill Bain, in Crete.
A few years ago, when my mother fell ill and was admitted to hospital, I visited Joyce, 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. She was able to see a picture of Bill’s grave in the Suda Bay cemetery.
In 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.
Although the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has a good 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 material gathered in this project will complement their site.