First defence repatriation ceremony to take place today

11:10 am on 7 May 2018

The first ceremony to mark the return of defence force members who died while on active service overseas after 1955 will take place this afternoon.

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A composite photo of Engineering Mechanic first class Russell Moore RNZN, Flight Lieutenant George Beban RNZAF and Leading Aircraftman Ralph Scott RNZAF Photo: Supplied / NZDF

Two men buried in Fiji and one in American Samoa will be welcomed home with a ramp ceremony at Ōhakea Airforce Base.

Flight Lieutenant George Beban died in 1956 and Leading Aircraftman Ralph Scott died in 1960. Both died from natural causes and both were buried at the Suva Military Cemetery.

Navy Engineering Mechanic Russell Moore, serving on HMNZS Lachlan died in an accident in 1855 in Pago Pago and was buried there.

Their repatriation to New Zealand is the result of a policy change announced last year that allowed families of servicemen and their dependants buried overseas between 1955 and 1971 the option of having them returned to New Zealand.

A total of 37 service personnel are likely to be repatriated by October 2018 including 29 from Malaysia and Singapore in August.

The three men returning today will arrive on a RNZAF C-130 Hercules to Ōhakea and will be given a Māori welcome as the caskets are carried from the plane with full military honours including a Guard of Honour.

A private family service will then be held followed by a NZDF haka as the caskets leave the airforce base.

A continuous vigil by NZDF personnel has been held around the three men since they were dis-interred from Suva and Pago Pago in the last few weeks.

Families have been offered support from the defence force at re-interment services at a place of the family's choosing.