Plan to take photographs of every NZ war grave

By Juliet zRowan, Juliet Rowan

It may seem small comfort, but Dennis Kerins knows the joy a photograph of a war grave can bring to loved ones.

His uncle, Bill Bain, was killed in Crete in World War II, leaving behind a fiancee, Joyce, in New Zealand.

Although she later married happily, a few years ago Joyce told Mr Kerins she still thought of Mr Bain every day and really wanted a picture of his grave.

Mr Kerins had a friend who was going to Crete and arranged for the friend to take a photograph.

Joyce died shortly afterwards, but her pleasure at receiving the photo inspired Mr Kerins, a multimedia designer, to set about creating a photographic archive of every one of New Zealand's 30,321 war graves.

He began planning the project in early 2004 and by March 2006 had formed the New Zealand War Graves Trust with the help of others.

The initial phase of the project - photographing 3484 war graves in New Zealand - was completed in October last year, and now, as Anzac Day approaches, the trust has begun photographing memorials to New Zealand soldiers buried in the Pacific.

"It's really quite fascinating," Mr Kerins, 60, said. "And of course ... In many senses, these are the forgotten people."

He said public attention tended to focus on New Zealand war graves in places such as Gallipoli, where large numbers of troops had been killed, but in fact graves of the country's soldiers lay scattered across 63 countries, some of them in very remote places.

The archive will be posted on a website hosted by the Auckland War Memorial Museum which the public will be able to access freely.

Photographer Derrick Bunn, 57, who is trust secretary, photographed the graves in New Zealand and is doing some of the overseas part of the project.

"It's ambitious, it's long, it's exacting and you can't afford to make mistakes."

He said the stories that emerged during the work were incredible, such as that of Ludolf West, the man regarded as the first casualty of World War I when he died of pneumonia seven days after entering Linton Army camp in 1914.

West was classed as a war casualty because he was on active service.

Online link: The Auckland War Memorial Museum has a Book of Remembrance on its website for people to post messages on to remember those who served and died in war.

- NZ Herald

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