College – Issue 39

HERITAGE Anzac memories and war grave visits

by Warren Lidstone

There was some trepidation as I got out of bed. It was 5.54am on Anzac Day, and I was going to ‘stand at dawn’ at my letterbox to recognise the contribution and sacrifice made by our servicemen. The occasion was quite surreal; in my street I could only see one other person, yet the notes of multiple trumpets echoed around the valley, only to be trumped by a solo rendition of the national anthem sung by someone with great gusto. It was an event I will never forget. Later that morning I found two interesting articles which really made me consider both the values of remembering (or is it forgetting?), and its related importance in our society. The first article noted there were only 600 World War 2 veterans who were still alive in New Zealand i . I have been concerned for a a long time about how we have commemorated Anzac Day. For years the focus has been on the Gallipoli invasion of 1915. This is significant; it was New Zealand’s first involvement in a world conflict, while it also demonstrated to the soldiers that New Zealand had its own distinctive identity. But, in the end, the campaign was a failure; the

strategic goals were not reached, and it cost New Zealand over 2700 lives. Annually, the glorification of Gallipoli pained me. I always wondered what the World War 2 veterans, who were dwindling every year, felt knowing that their contribution and sacrifice was not remembered in such grand and elaborate detail. The second article ii which piqued my interest was about Sergeant Edgar Neve, a 29-year-old RNZAF pilot, who was killed in Nigeria in an aircraft accident at the end of 1942. Further to this story was the fact that his direct family, including his 83-year-old son, have never seen his grave. I found this such a sad story, but one, I suspect, that was common. Together, these articles made me think about our remembrance of College boys. In 2018, I considered one class I was teaching was really failing to grasp the significance of our memorials in the Chapel to our fallen Old Boys. As a result, we collectively produced an interactive map indicating where each Old Boy was buried, and where possible, a brief synopsis of each man’s life. This was my attempt to make remembrance for 21st century students’, real. Recently, I was in South Africa to watch a cricket tournament. When I knew I was going to South Africa I wanted to see whether I was going

anywhere near the burial sites of any of College’s six boys killed in the 1899-1902 South African War. In 2009, I had visited the graves and memorials of Old Boys around Longueval, in the Somme region of France (Foster, Jameson, McHaffie, Upton, Farley, Carrington, Starky, Boulnois and Ambrose); upon each grave I placed a poppy and ‘certificate of appreciation’ from Christ’s College. South Africa and war graves was a totally different experience! By chance I found that Charles Spencer Bourne was buried about 40 minutes away from one location in which I was staying. Bourne, was the son of College’s fifth Headmaster, Mr CF Bourne, and was unfortunately killed in a train accident where a goods train collided with the troops as they headed to the battleground. Bourne was one of 16 unfortunates to have been killed in New Zealand’s most tragic day in the Boer War. So, I journeyed to Klerksdorp to find the old cemetery. The New Zealand War Graves Project iii indicated that there would be an obelisk statue with Bourne’s name on it. When I found the abandoned cemetery I was immediately struck by the unkempt ‘first’ burial ground. This was allocated to black African soldiers of World War 2. Along the route to Bourne’s site, there were other burial allocations to different religious groups, and also concentration camp graves

Christ’s College Canterbury


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