Jean Batten's descendants say her remains should stay in Spanish cemetery

Ron Batten (right), great-nephew of aviatrix Jean Batten, at her grave in Majorca, Spain with his daughter, Shannon Marsh. Picture / Supplied.
Ron Batten (right), great-nephew of aviatrix Jean Batten, at her grave in Majorca, Spain with his daughter, Shannon Marsh. Picture / Supplied.

Descendants of the great New Zealand pilot Jean Batten have installed a plaque at her Spanish gravesite - and say her remains should be left where they lie.

Batten, who shattered long-distance solo flying records in the 1930s, died a lonely death on November 22, 1982, on the Mediterranean island of Majorca. She became infected by a dogbite, but refused medical help. For two months her body lay unclaimed in a mortuary in Palma before she was buried in a communal paupers' grave, joining the remains of dozens of penniless Spaniards.

In the decades since her ignominious end, campaigns have surfaced to repatriate her traces, driven partly by her final wishes. The latest is a blogsite called 'Bring Jean home.' Her great-nephew Ron Batten believes she should stay undisturbed in the Palma municipal cemetery.

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Three months ago, Batten made a pilgrimage to Palma. He cleared his plan with other descendants and installed a tile at the grave beside a bronze memorial put up by the New Zealand government in 1989.

A dairy farmer, Batten placed the family tribute without permission of cemetery managers.

"I was intending to but they were more than happy that we gave her plaque a polish up."
The Batten family plate includes a note of thanks to the late writer and film-maker Ian Mackersey. Author of Jean Batten The Garbo of the Skies , Mackersey helped solve the mystery of Batten's reclusive final years. Said Batten: "I felt we owed him a debt."

Jean Batten's gravesite in Majorca, Spain. Photo / Supplied
Jean Batten's gravesite in Majorca, Spain. Photo / Supplied

According to Mackersey, Jean Batten wanted her ashes placed near where she ended her extraordinary solo flight across the world to Auckland 80 years ago. She landed her Percival Gull monoplane on a grass strip at Mangere on 16 October 1936, the first direct flight from England to New Zealand. A big crowd saw her touch down, and thousands lined roads from the airfield to the city, cheering as she passed.

Her September 1974 will - made eight years before her death in a plain, 5th floor hotel room - set out her wishes, wrote Mackersey.

The document stated that she was to be cremated in London, the ashes placed in an alabaster urn and sent to New Zealand. Her initial hope was for a Concorde to make the trip, an ambition she revised to an Air New Zealand plane.

Ron Batten said despite these instructions, his great-aunt was best left in her final resting place. The Spanish burial custom in the communal plot involved layers of black wooden coffins placed on top of others. Retrieval of the celebrated aviatrix's remains would disturb others interred in the rectangular grave.

"It would just be too intrusive," said Ron Batten. "She should remain there."

- NZ Herald

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