7 Mar 2012

NZ war graves confirmed damaged in attack

8:49 pm on 7 March 2012

New Zealand graves are among those desecrated in an attack on cemeteries in Libya, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has confirmed.

The 11 graves were at the Commonwealth War Cemetery and the Benghazi British Military Cemetery which were vandalised at the weekend.

The incidents took place in the eastern city of Benghazi, near where British and Commonwealth troops fought heavy battles against German and Italian forces during World War II.

New Zealand's Ministry of Culture and Heritage says the 11 headstones of New Zealand servicemen who were killed during the North African campaign in World War II will need to be replaced.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission says the headstones will be restored to a level befitting the sacrifice made.

It says while it could take some time to source replacement stones and ensure it is safe for the work to be carried out, procedures are in place to make restoration a priority.

The attacks were condemned earlier this week by Prime Minister John Key as a shameful act of violence, but Mr Key said on Wednesday that the Government will not be calling for an inquiry.

Meanwhile, ex-pats living in Benghazi have collected the fragments of the broken headstones.

Don McIver, national president of the the Returned and Services Association, says it is very upset and disgusted at the attacks.

Mr McIver has received an email from an ex-pat who lives close to the cemetery who knew that the RSA would be concerned about the damage.

"He visited himself and says that every New Zealand headstone has been either smashed or at least flipped over. He goes on to say that a few of the ex-pats there in the city have gone to the area and assembled the stones back into a recognisable mess of smashed stones."

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is an inter-governmental agency based in London and funded by member countries to maintain the graves.

The funding from New Zealand to the commission goes through the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. It is based on a percentage of the number of graves the commission looks after for each Commonwealth country.

New Zealand makes up more than 2% of the total number of graves and contributes about $2.5 million annually.

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage wants to contact relatives of the men whose graves were desecrated, to keep them informed about progress of repairs.

The ministry's operations unit manager, Brodie Stubbs, says the only contact details for family members are of next of kin from 60 or 70 years ago. The RSA says it has not had any contact from family members of the men buried there.

New Zealanders buried at Benghazi War Cemetery

Boult, Private, Hedley James, 40378. 19th Bn. NZ Infantry. Died 10 November 1942, aged 40.

Son of Albert William and Elizabeth Harriet Boult, of Bristol, England; husband of Lily Boult, of Miramar, Wellington.

Crawford, Flying Officer (Pilot), Hector Hugh, 39904. 272 (RAF) Sqdn. Royal New Zealand Air Force. Died 6 February 1942, aged 25.

Son of William and Mabel Crawford, of Karori, Wellington.

Feasey, Flight Sergeant (W.Op./Air Gnr.), Lorenzo Richard, 403572. 37 (R.A.F.) Sqdn. RNZAF. Died 20 June 1942, aged 20.

Son of Richard George Feasey and of Rachel Eleanor Feasey (nee Bradley), of Petone, Wellington.

Kauter, Flying Officer (Pilot), William Lynn, 405281. 37 (RAF) Sqdn. RNZAF Died 20 June 1942, aged 26.

Son of Stephen Kauter and of Clara Harriet Clarendale Kauter (nee Steed), of Napier.

Milne, Lance Corporal, Arthur Leslie, 15071. NZ Army Service Corps. Died 21 September 1942, aged 24.

Son of David Milne and of Edith Milne (nee Hyde), of Christchurch.

Mutton, Sergeant, Maurice Reginald, 22570. 21st Bn. NZ Infantry. Died 1 January 1943, aged 24.

Son of Walter Henry Mutton and of Doris Charlotte Mutton (nee Scott), of Auckland.

McAulay, Lieutenant, Hector Alexander, 34091. 2nd Div. Cavalry Regt. NZ Armoured Corps. Died 26 January 1943, aged 35.

Son of Robert Samuel and Margaret McAulay, of Elsthorpe, Hawke's Bay; husband of Doris Yeoll McAulay, of Napier.

Ridland, Flight Sergeant (Nav.), Mitchell, 421941. 462 (RAAF) Sqdn. RNZAF. Died 12 October 1943, aged 35.

Son of Sinclair William and Margaret Agnes Ridland, of Lake Kanieri, Hokitika.

Scott, Aircraftman 1st Class, Thomas Martin, 413618. RNZAF serving with Royal Air Force. Died 19 August 1943, aged 25.

Son of David Martin Scott and of Annabell Scott (nee Lewis), of Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand. 6. G. 10.

Thurston, Pilot Officer (Pilot), William George Duncan, 41376. 37 (R.A.F.) Sqdn. RNZAF Died, 20 June 1942, aged 27.

Son of Frederick Thurston and of Mary Thurston (nee Crossan), of Heriot, Otago; husband of Hazel Thurston, of Rangiora, Canterbury.

Wardle, Private, Peter Edgar Alfred Vivienne, 35745. 19th Bn. N.Z. Infantry. Died, 17 July 1942, aged 24.

Son of Peter and Clara Emma Wardle, of Wellington.