Family push for remains of South Canterbury soldier to be returned

Tetsuro Mitomo/Fairfax NZ

John Burborough's family wants him coming back home in their family plot in Fairlie.

The South Canterbury family of a man who died during the Korean War is calling for an extension for the remains of military personnel to be brought home.

Driver (Dvr) John Ewing Burborough, of Fairlie, never made it back from his deployment to Korea.

He died on November 4,1954, one day before he was expected to return home.

From left Doug, Betty and Diane Burborough,  Vicki Henare and Pam Cootes with their family member's plot in Fairlie.
TETSURO MITOMO/FAIRFAX NZ

From left Doug, Betty and Diane Burborough, Vicki Henare and Pam Cootes with their family member's plot in Fairlie.

However, unlike many of his fallen comrades, his remains are not eligible to be repatriated to New Zealand- by 57 days.

Minister for Veterans' Affairs David Bennett has announced an offer would be made to repatriate the remains of 36 military personnel buried overseas between 1955 and 1971 in Singapore and Malaysia.

Extending the offer to families of New Zealanders interred as a result of a military burial between 1955-1971 in America Samoa, Australia, Fiji, Korea and the United Kingdom was also under consideration.

John Burborough was 25 when died in 1954, one day before he was set to come back to NZ from deployment in the Korean War.
SUPPLIED

John Burborough was 25 when died in 1954, one day before he was set to come back to NZ from deployment in the Korean War.

Burborough died 57 days before 1955, meaning he misses out on the repatriation process.

His niece Pam Cootes said there should be more being done to bring the remains of soldiers home.

She said there would be families happy to leave their loved ones buried where they were. 

Doug Burborough at his parents and brothers grave in Fairlie.
TETSURO MITOMO/FAIRFAX NZ

Doug Burborough at his parents and brothers grave in Fairlie.

"But if the Government was putting all that money into the process then extending the offer to those in other countries, why not do it all at once."

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"When we saw his gravestone on the news we assumed it would be in that lot and that they would be bringing him back."

Burborough was 25-years-old when he died and is buried in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Busan. 

Bennett said the policy announced last week was not intended to cover the UN cemeteries.

"These cemeteries are well looked after through the United Nations and it would be really not something to change."

Cootes agreed the cemetery was well looked after, which she saw first hand when she went with her father Doug to visit Burborough's grave in Korea last year.

She said the cemetery was "beautiful" and that the Korean people had so much respect for people from all countries that fought for them.

However, she said "why not do a full one off and bring everyone back".

Records state Burborough died due to an accident.

His brother, Doug, said from what he understood a truck that was transporting fuel, and carrying Burborough and another man, rolled on a corner after hitting it with speed when the men were on their way back from "cleaning up whatever they had to tidy up".

Burborough inhaled fuel during the incident. 

The brothers grew up in Fairlie. John was a sawmill worker before enlisting in the army and Doug a contract fencer and builder.

Doug said he and his father were out on the backblocks when they received a telegram by the station master saying "they were needed at home".

That was when he learned of his brother's death.

He and his wife Betty moved with the family to Levin in 1970, while the rest of the family relocated to various towns across the North Island. 

Doug, Betty, three of their four daughters, one granddaughter and a great-grandson were travelling around South Canterbury in what Cootes described as a "history lesson for everyone", reminiscing about family memories.

They also visited the graves of Doug's parents in Fairlie, which also had a memorial to Burborough.

His name is on the same gravestone as his mother and father, but the family have plans for him to have his own beside his parents. 

"We've got the space sitting and waiting with the plot in Fairlie," Cootes said.

She said the family thought "it was just probably impossible for him to be brought home."

"The dream that would never happen".

 - Stuff

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