The neglected burial site of Sapper Robert Hislop, mourned a century ago as New Zealand's first casualty of World War I, is expected to become an official war grave.

The Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Tim Keating, is expected to confirm that Hislop's name will be added to the roll of honour of New Zealanders who died in service of their country before the centenary of his death on August 19.

The news has delighted Hislop's great-niece Sue Atkins, who had been pushing for official recognition of the young soldier's sacrifice.

The grave of Robert Hislop in Waikumete Cemetery is neglected. Photo /
Richard Robinson

She said she "shed a tear or two" when the Defence Ministry advised her that Hislop's burial place would become a "true war grave".


The Herald revealed the state of Hislop's grave site in Waikumete Cemetery last week as part of its series on New Zealanders who died during the Great War.

In a letter to Mrs Atkins, NZDF senior adviser heritage Matthew Buck wrote that "it is anticipated that Chief of Defence Force will agree" that Sapper Hislop would be recognised as a World War I casualty.

Mr Buck said that once the recommendation was endorsed, it would be sent to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage "with the request that the name of Robert Arthur Hislop be inscribed on the national and Commonwealth War Graves Commission rolls of honour".

"Robert Hislop's grave will thus become a 'True War Grave' with the result that the Ministry for Culture and Heritage will become responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the grave in perpetuity."

Mrs Atkins said she was elated to get the letter.

"What a gift knowing he is going to be honoured for his service to his country and his headstone repaired and cared for."

Hislop, a member of the NZ Corps of Railway Engineers, died from injuries he received when he fell off the Parnell rail bridge while on guard duty.