For those who never made it home….we remember.
My great uncle Frank was one of those.
My Grandfather’s younger brother, he emigrated with the family to New Zealand from Gloucestershire in 1905 as a sixteen year old. A musician and like his brothers and my father, was a farmer from Rongotea.
‘But all that my mind sees Is a quaking bog in a mist — stark, snapped trees, And the dark Somme flowing.’ ~ Vance Palmer (1885–1959), ‘The farmer remembers the Somme’
Uncle Frank was killed in action on 15th September 1916. It was the first day of the second major offensive against the German lines. He died on the Western Front, a vast arena of suffering and misery in which New Zealanders were killed in unprecedented numbers. His body was interred as an unknown soldier at the Caterpillar Valley Memorial Cemetery near Longueval in France, along with 1,200 other new Zealanders.
This is the cemetery from where the unknown soldier’s remains were brought to Wellington for the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. This ANZAC day, 25 April is New Zealand’s Remembrance day and 2015 marks the centenary of the Gallipoli landings. Engraved around the base of the tomb is text of a karanga (call of greeting), in both Māori and English, calling the warrior back to his homeland. A cloak of bronze, decorated with four inlaid pounamu crosses, alludes to the New Zealand flag.
The karanga Te mamae nei a te pōuri nui Tēnei ra e te tau Aue hoki mai ra ki te kainga tūturu E tatari atu nei ki a kou tou Ngā tau roa I ngaro atu ai te aroha E ngau kino nei I ahau aue taukuri e The great pain we feel Is for you who were our future Come back return home, We have waited for you Through the long years You were away. Sorrow Aches within me.
I’ve always been a bit vague on the details of his engagement so today I searched his records and found his resting place. I’m deeply touched by the discovery of my personal connection to the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The sacrifice that Frank and the thousands of others have made in the following hundred years. I can’t imagine the terror and horrors that they endured – for our peace. Stand Tall the ANZAC Poppies… Information sourced from: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/the-battle-of-the-somme by Bronwyn Dalley and David Green and produced by the NZHistory.net.nz team. Photograph credits: Andy Palmer, Manatū Taonga