To photograph all the war graves and primary memorials of New Zealanders who, serving with New Zealand and Allied forces, died in conflicts, from the Anglo-Boer war (1899-1902), to the present day and in peacekeeping operations. Our research has identified 31,758 New Zealand war graves in 79 countries including New Zealanders serving with other Allied forces.
To produce a photographic record of the relevant major cemeteries and surrounding areas.
To create a digital archive and database, accessed via a website, enabling free public access to their biographical information and images.
To instigate community and education programmes based around the project.
To instigate the making of a TV documentary telling the story of the project, the cemeteries, but most of all the servicemen.
To co-operate and collaborate with others working in similar areas, to ensure accuracy and compatibility of data.
There are 31,758 New Zealanders whom the New Zealand War Graves Trust project has been able to identify to date who, serving with New Zealand and Allied forces, died in conflicts from the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) up to the present day and in peacekeeping operations. They are commemorated by burial in Commonwealth War Grave cemeteries, public cemeteries, graves in New Zealand or by inscription on memorials world wide.
How it began
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.
Left: Bill Bain's grave in Suda Bay cemetery.
Right: Ian Gough (above) and Bill Bain.