6 September 2018
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) will begin repatriating two Royal New Zealand Navy sailors buried in England next week.
Leading Engineering Mechanic (LM[E]) William Goodwin and Engine Room Artificer Apprentice (ER/AA) Philip Short.
This is the third tranche of project Te Auraki (The Return), under which the NZDF is bringing home personnel and dependants buried overseas after January 1955, following a change in government policy.
Engine Room Artificer Apprentice (ER/AA) Philip Short will be disinterred from a cemetery in Kent and Leading Engineering Mechanic (LM[E]) William Goodwin will be disinterred from a Plymouth cemetery.
ER/AA Short, 20, died in a motor vehicle accident in 1958. He had just completed three years training at HMS Caledonia and was awaiting return to New Zealand.
LM(E) Goodwin, 25, was posted to HMNZS Bellona and died following a head knock playing rugby in 1956.
Between 1955 and 1971 NZDF personnel who died while serving abroad were buried in overseas cemeteries unless their families paid the repatriation costs.
Te Auraki project manager Royal New Zealand Air Force Group Captain Carl Nixon said the NZDF was committed to making the process as dignified and respectful as possible for the families of those being repatriated.
“This project is about putting right the inequalities and inconsistencies of the past, so we will be treating everyone the same, regardless of wealth, rank or cause of death,” Group Captain Nixon said.
“We are grateful to the Government of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for caring for the resting places of our personnel for more than 60 years.”
A disinterment team is being deployed, comprising bioarchaeologists and forensic anthropologists, as well as NZDF odontologists (dentists) assisting with the identification of the remains. The team will be led by an NZDF doctor.
Once the personnel have been identified, Royal New Zealand Navy personnel will conduct a continuous vigil around the caskets until the remains are handed over to their families in New Zealand.
Before the exhumations begin, kaumātua and an NZDF chaplain will lead blessing ceremonies at the grave sites, which will include waiata and prayers.
The remains of the fallen personnel will be returned to their families at an arrival ceremony at Devonport Naval Base on 26 September.
This follows the repatriation of three NZDF personnel from Fiji and American Samoa in May, and 27 personnel and one dependant from Malaysia and Singapore in August.