Pilgrim offers poppy laying service to families
A pilgrimage to Italy could be considered a final tribute to a treasured uncle, but a Morrinsville woman is going further by offering to lay poppies for locals whose ancestors were killed in war.
From May 11 to 16, Faye Ketu will be in Italy to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino, in which her late uncle, Charles Mostyn Humffreys, fought in 1944.
Humffreys survived the battle and eventually returned home, living out the last of his days in Port Hedland in Australia, but Ketu knows many soldiers weren't so lucky.
"I just want to see where he went, and pay tribute to him but also the ones that didn't come home," she said.
On May 16, Ketu will be taken to the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Cassino where 4266 soldiers lie, including 500 New Zealanders.
"I know many families have never been over there and can't get to the graves, so I could place a poppy for them."
Ketu said she would be happy to take a photo of the grave and send it to the family.
Ketu was lucky enough to be with her uncle in his final weeks and said he took the opportunity to tell stories of his time in Cairo, Tobruk, Tripoli and the Battle of El Alamein.
Perhaps the most haunting of his tales was that of his post-war duties after most of his comrades had returned home.
"He signed up for the graves unit for another year which meant he went up the mountains in Bulgaria on horseback recovering bodies of pilots who had been shot down. They would bring these frozen bodies back and look for their paybook in their pockets to identify them."
She will also visit the Moro River Canadian Cemetery in Ortona and other war cemeteries in Anzio, scene of a hard-fought battle in 1944.
The trip, escorted by historians from Italy and New Zealand, includes an expedition from Rome to Trieste, following in the footsteps of the New Zealand troopsfrom 1943 to 1945.
If you would like Faye Ketu to lay a poppy for you email firstname.lastname@example.org