War centenary spruce-up

ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY AND NATASHA THYNE
Last updated 05:00 20/01/2014
Les Jones
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/Fairfax NZ
CAREFUL REPAIR: Les Jones of Aorangi & Harding Memorials repaints a World War I veteran's headstone in Timaru Cemetery.

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More than 100 World War I veterans' headstones are being repainted at Timaru Cemetery in time for centenary commemorations in April.

Veterans' Affairs New Zealand has contracted Timaru company Aorangi & Harding Memorials to complete 120 headstones, which have faded names on them. This is the first restoration work done since they were installed. Many of the soldiers buried had returned from war and died in the 1940s.

Aorangi & Harding Memorials owner Les Jones said the work was started a fortnight ago but progress was slow because of the weather. Each headstone took about an hour. So far 20 had been done.

"The original lettering is silver and hard to read so we are repainting them white," Mr Jones said.

He expected the automotive paint used to last about 20 years before needing redoing.

It had been interesting reading the headstones, with some of the soldiers fighting in more than one war, he said. "I have not come across anyone related to me."

As well as the headstones, the Timaru company has repainted the flagpole in the cemetery and is working on the paving stones in front of the veterans' plaques.

The two Timaru cadet units will also help with grave tidying as a community service project. They would undertake a programme of grave cleaning and weeding of "true" war graves, according to Margaret Marks, senior adviser at National Monuments and War Graves - Heritage Operation.

True war graves are those of serving members of the forces who died in New Zealand during wartime, or shortly afterwards from war-related causes, and are distinct from the graves of war veterans.

Mrs Marks said the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, as agent of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, was responsible for the care and maintenance of true war graves. They were inspected by the ministry every two years and monumental masons were engaged to refurbish those needing repair or professional treatment.

The project was only for Timaru Cemetery but Mrs Marks said over time they might be able to extend their efforts to other cemeteries in South Canterbury.

She said there was no budget for this programme as the cadets would do the work as community service.

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- The Timaru Herald

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