War grave plaques are to be restored at Waihi Cemetery and historic stories will be uncovered.

A combined initiative is being undertaken to restore veterans' war grave plaques and headstones which have fallen into disrepair as part of the New Zealand Remembrance Army's grave restoration project.

Soon the 400 plaques in the RSA section of Waihi Cemetery will be cleaned and brought back to new by volunteers who may also help investigate the stories behind the fallen men buried at the cemetery. The project has been taken on locally by Waihi Heritage Vision, Waihi Memorial RSA and Keep Waihi Beautiful.

''The restoration and cleaning of the headstones and old bronze plaques is only part of the project. Part of this restoration is to find out about the service people buried in our Waihi RSA Cemetery,'' says Krishna Buckman from Waihi Heritage Vision.

Advertisement

Krishna is an ex-service woman (Navy) with a strong connection to service in the military. She feels this is a way of making sure stories are not forgotten.

"My parents are buried here in the RSA cemetery. My father was an engineer in the Pacific during World War II and my mother a member of the Women's Royal Naval Service. My father-in-law is also buried here. He served with the army in Italy during World War II with the tanks and always suffered effects afterwards."

Krishna knew about the national restoration project — which aims to see all New Zealand's war graves cleaned and restored by December 2020 — and with the Waihi 100 Armistice Commemorations held last year plus with the success of the "cross of crosses",

Krishna realised that many Waihi families have stories to tell of their family members who served.

Waihi Memorial RSA president Ellen Henderson also had a word to Krishna about the general state of the RSA section at the cemetery. Volunteers recently had a big tidy-up.
Part of the grave restoration will include asking volunteers to research a name on a headstone/plaque they are restoring.

''It is a way of connecting people today to our forgotten stories from our Waihi community,'' Krishna says.

Cleaning of the headstones and bronze plaques is not cheap. Waihi Heritage Vision is asking for donations as well as volunteers.

Cleaning of each plaque can take up to five months as it involves using cleaning agents for oxidation, restoration materials and sealant. Each stage may involve two to three coats.

Krishna says when someone takes on the responsibility of restoring a plaque, they will form a special connection to that person.

If you would like to be involved, contact Krishna on 027 309 4181 or 863 8455 or email wkbuckman@xtra.co.nz

- With Krishna Buckman

■ How to research a soldier's name: Go to Auckland War Memorial Online Cenotaph. Click on "person search". In the "search filters" type in your soldier's service number. Here you can find what they did before enlisting, where they lived and their next of kin. Then lay a digital poppy in remembrance of the person.