Graves now have reminders of war service

The Arrowtown gravesites of some of those who fought for New Zealand now have permanent reminders of their service.

Following Armistice Day commemorations on Saturday to mark the end of World War 1, the Arrowtown Returned and Services’ Association (RSA) enlisted a group of volunteers to embark on a project years in the planning, which also involved a former Arrowtown resident and a Nelson retiree.

Peter Chisholm first moved to Arrowtown from Invercargill in 1992, to help build The Remarkables skifield, and then returned about a decade later after a stint overseas, eventually relocating to Nelson in 2008, where he met Brian McIntyre.

Mr McIntyre, 81, founded a group charged with looking after the 150-year-old Wakapuaka Cemetery, which was closed and had been neglected by the council.

Arrowtown Returned and Services’ Association secretary Linda Harrison (left) and president...
Arrowtown Returned and Services’ Association secretary Linda Harrison (left) and president Rosemary Chalmers with two of the clay poppies affixed to some war veterans’ headstones at Arrowtown Cemetery yesterday. PHOTO: TRACEY ROXBURGH
"You’d come across a marble headstone, where mum and dad had died, and their son was mentioned as ‘died at Gallipoli’, or somewhere overseas," Mr McIntyre said.

"I thought, ‘there must be some way to recognise them’."

Mr McIntyre enlisted the Nelson Community Potters to create 600 clay poppies paid for by Mr Chisholm — some of which were placed on headstones in Nelson, while many went to the Remembrance Army or were sold privately to people all over New Zealand and the world.

About two years ago, Mr McIntyre learned how to make the poppies himself — he had since created more than 6200, some of which were placed in Arrowtown yesterday.

Arrowtown RSA president Rosemary Chalmers said there were 24 men from the village who lost their lives in WW1, another 19 in WW2 and two during a war in South Africa, all either buried in the cemetery, or with monuments erected there in their honour.

While it had been difficult to contact relatives of those lost in WW1, many of the families of those who died in WW2 were "really supportive" of having the poppies placed on the headstones.

"It’s really lovely to be able to have them recognised.

"It’s really important — lots of people walk around the [cemetery] and for people to see, ‘he served for our country’, it’s pretty special."

Along with affixing poppies, yesterday’s working bee, which involved about 30 people, included cleaning up RSA headstones and gravesites, and identifying where further repairs might be required.