Brit honours war vets
Englishman Ian McArthur has flown the flag for New Zealand at an annual Anzac ceremony in the north of England for the past five years, spurred on by his respect for Commonwealth contributions to the world wars and his connection to New Zealand through his daughter who lives in Nelson.
Mr McArthur, who lives in a small mining village a few kilometres from the North Sea near a fishing port called Amble in Northumberland County, attended the Anzac ceremony last weekend organised by the British Legion.
The cemetery where the service is held is near what was Royal Air Force Acklington airfield, which was operational during World War II but was closed some years ago.
It contains the graves of New Zealand and Australian airmen, plus those from other Commonwealth countries killed during the war.
Mr McArthur said the ceremony included representatives of the Royal New Zealand and Australian air forces, who were often serving officers who laid wreaths.
A contingent of RAF servicemen and women and Air Training Corps cadets laid poppies beside each grave as the name of the deceased was called out.
"Various other associations also lay wreaths such as the RAF Association, Observer Corps and the RAF Police Association of which I am a member," Mr McArthur said.
The national flags of countries represented are displayed on flagstaffs and the national anthems are played at the start of the ceremony.
A bugler plays the Last Post before the ceremony ends with a marchpast through the cemetery.
"This year there would be about 300 people present, including many who came from more than 50 kilometres away," Mr McArthur said.
He said the ceremony was always poignant.
"I do find it moving that men [at that time] should travel so far to fight in another continent's war and for most to die at such an early age.
"When one thinks of the time taken to travel by sea and then to find themselves in combat soon after arriving in the United Kingdom."
Mr McArthur served in the RAF for nine years and then taught for 30 years in a high school in Newcastle upon Tyne.
He said there were at least 20 Anzac ceremonies held across Britain, the largest being in London at the Cenotaph, but what Anzac Day meant to the average person in Britain was not easy to assess.
A colleague of Mr McArthur carried out a straw poll and found six out of eight men knew about it and 11 out of 19 women.
"Perhaps Anzac Day means nothing to anyone under 55 years," Mr McArthur said.
RNZAF war veterans buried in the Northumberland cemetery: Austin, Richard Scott (pilot), Wellington; Hulton, Fergus (pilot) from Rotorua; Irving, Thomas Walter (observer) from Napier; McIssac, Alexander (air gunner) from Whakatane; Hunt, Laurence Warren (pilot) from Manurewa.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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