There are no photos of baby Desmond in the Rogers' family albums.

His brothers Ruapeka and John have no memories of him.

His whānau never took him to the family home in Rotorua, until his remains were brought back to New Zealand, last month, 55 years after his death.

Ruapeka 'Rippa' Rogers with his baby brother Desmond's urn in Rotorua. Photo / Stephen Parker
Ruapeka 'Rippa' Rogers with his baby brother Desmond's urn in Rotorua. Photo / Stephen Parker

Desmond James Rogers was born in Leeston in Canterbury and christened at the All Saints' Garrison Church at Burnham Military Camp.

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He would have celebrated his 55th birthday last Friday, had he been a healthy baby.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joined hundreds of guests as the New Zealand Defence Force returned the remains to New Zealand last month. Photo / Greg Bowker
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joined hundreds of guests as the New Zealand Defence Force returned the remains to New Zealand last month. Photo / Greg Bowker

"There is something wrong with Desmond. I told the doctors. They aren't listening. They don't know what's wrong."

Those were Helen Rogers' panicked words, told back to Ruapeka later in life.

There were no answers until baby Desmond died, just before his first Christmas, on December 22, 1963.

Members of the New Zealand Defence Force placed baby Desmond Rogers' casket with those of the 27 New Zealand Army soldiers at Auckland Airport. Photo / Greg Bowker
Members of the New Zealand Defence Force placed baby Desmond Rogers' casket with those of the 27 New Zealand Army soldiers at Auckland Airport. Photo / Greg Bowker

His death certificate from Kinrara British Military Hospital, Malaysia, blames hydrocephalus, water in the brain for the 3-and-a-half-month-old's death.

His father, also called Desmond, was deployed to Borneo soon after his family's traumatic loss, leaving Helen to process it, while caring for Renata, 5, Ruapeka, 3, and Michelle, 2.

She spent the rest of her life yearning for baby Desmond.

It led to episodes of depression and hospitalisations in Lake Alice and Sunnyside mental institutions, and electric shock treatment.

But in her final years, Helen heard comforting news from Ruapeka at her bedside.

There was growing support for the repatriation of servicemen buried in foreign cemeteries, and this would include baby Desmond, subject to her consent.

"I can quite clearly see the expression on her frail face of pure joy, followed by a look of resigned relief and a long pause - like a moment of reflection. 'That would be very nice son'."

Baby Desmond's former grave at Cheras Rd Cemetery, Kuala Lumpur, when Ruapeka visited in May, to tell his brother he was coming home soon. Photo / Supplied
Baby Desmond's former grave at Cheras Rd Cemetery, Kuala Lumpur, when Ruapeka visited in May, to tell his brother he was coming home soon. Photo / Supplied

In May, Ruapeka flew to Cheras Rd Cemetery, Kuala Lumpur, "to tell Desmond he would be coming home shortly".

The remains were farewelled at a ceremony in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo / NZDF
The remains were farewelled at a ceremony in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo / NZDF

It has now been 24 days since baby Desmond landed in Auckland International Airport, as part of the Te Auraki project.

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A plane carrying the remains of 27 New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel arrived back in the country.

You couldn't miss the startling white wooden panels enclosing his remains, among 27 much larger caskets, draped in navy blue New Zealand flags.

Members of the New Zealand Defence Force with the returned remains of baby Desmond Rogers and soldiers at Auckland International Airport. Photo / Greg Bowker
Members of the New Zealand Defence Force with the returned remains of baby Desmond Rogers and soldiers at Auckland International Airport. Photo / Greg Bowker

Ruapeka accompanied his baby brother in the Osbornes' hearse back to Rotorua; the Rogers' hometown.

Desmond and Helen's kids spent every school holiday "playing around and catching up" with their cousins there, during their father's military career, going from camp to camp.

His marae was Ōwhata Marae at Hinemoa Pt and Ruapeka got married there 35 years ago.

Members of the New Zealand Defence Force carried baby Desmond Rogers' casket at Auckland Airport. Photo / Greg Bowker
Members of the New Zealand Defence Force carried baby Desmond Rogers' casket at Auckland Airport. Photo / Greg Bowker

The hearse took baby Desmond back to the family home in Fenton Park where he spent the night before a private funeral service and cremation was held for the Rogers whānau the next morning.

Baby Desmond's urn now takes its rightful place on the prayer table in the family home, next to his mother's and father's.

Their wairua are "finally at peace".

Baby Desmond Rogers' casket was covered by his late mother Helen's korowai, as it was placed into the hearse. Photo / NZDF
Baby Desmond Rogers' casket was covered by his late mother Helen's korowai, as it was placed into the hearse. Photo / NZDF

John, who was born after baby Desmond died, "always felt he had a relationship" with the older brother he never met.

"He was always spoken about, it was not like he wasn't there."

Private Cameron Hunn, left, and Private Tim Dobbyn, with baby Desmond's hearse before the return to Rotorua. Photo / Supplied
Private Cameron Hunn, left, and Private Tim Dobbyn, with baby Desmond's hearse before the return to Rotorua. Photo / Supplied

John has been reflecting on what his mother went through, since baby Desmond's homecoming to Aotearoa.

"Postnatal depression was not really understood, and the shock treatment, it was horrendous. We experienced her go through that."

Baby Desmond Rogers' casket was covered by his late mother Helen's korowai, as it was placed into the hearse. Photo / NZDF
Baby Desmond Rogers' casket was covered by his late mother Helen's korowai, as it was placed into the hearse. Photo / NZDF

Despite all this, in John's eyes, Helen and Desmond were "fantastic parents".

"They had a tight unit. They were very protective. You could understand that, considering their loss."