Leading Aircraftman Dan May meets his great-great-uncle Arthur Harry “Boy” Ramsey for the first time on the Western Front.
20 April 2017
Saying goodbye to family in a cemetery is difficult. Saying hello to them when their life was snatched away during a bloody battle can be heart-wrenching.
Leading Aircraftman Dan May met his great-great uncle Arthur Harry “Boy” Ramsey on a chilly spring morning, as the frost thawed slowly in the watery sunshine between the rows of headstones at Grevillers British Cemetery.
Leading Aircraftman May is a member of the ceremonial guard in the New Zealand Defence Force contingent for the Western Front Anzac Day commemorations. He will stand stoic as one of the four catafalque guard members during services in France and Belgium.
It was on the Western Front that New Zealand made its most significant contribution to the First World War, and also where New Zealand suffered the greatest loss of life.
Arthur Ramsey, of the Auckland Regiment of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and a former farmer in Waikato, died on 27 August, 1918. He is flanked in the cemetery by other New Zealand soldiers killed on the battlefields of France in the First World War.
The contingent conducted a short service at the cemetery that included laying a wreath, reciting the Ode and playing the Last Post.
The entire contingent then supported Leading Aircraftman May while he paid his respects at the graveside of his great-great uncle.
Leading Aircraftman May, 33, is a communications and information systems technician based at Whenuapai in Auckland.
He joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force looking for better work stories, after several years in retail and hospitality jobs.
“I was working with a couple of guys who joined the Air Force and it looked and sounded so much better than what I was doing at the time. And it definitely hasn’t disappointed.”
Leading Aircraftman May, who was born in Whangarei, is used to travelling overseas. He spent several years at secondary school in Brunei while his parents were teaching there.
This is his first visit to France.
“Having the support of the contingent around me when meeting Boy was very special,” he said. “It showed the strong sense of comradeship that is part of military life. It’s comforting to know that Boy would have experienced that in the trenches and in battle. And he still has his mates around him.”
The contingent is undertaking tours to learn about the battles in the region and is visiting several cemeteries to pay respects to the fallen, as well as taking part in the official services, including Last Post ceremonies at Menin Gate.
Information about the Anzac Day-related ceremonies and First World War commemorations can be found at WW100.govt.nz/international-commemorations