Thursday, October 6, 2016

BRINGING THEM HOME

I see that Minister Foss has recanted on his previously expressed opposition to the repatriation of the remains of servicemen killed in the Malayan and Vietnam conflicts and buried in Malaysian cemeteries and is instructing the Veterans' Advisory Board to investigate the matter and recommend an appropriate course of action.

Better late than never.    My sources tell me the PM did not take kindly to the original advice provided by the Minister's office and that, combined with some heavyweight lobbying by senior cabinet ministers saw Foss forced to backtrack. 

For the record and I know this view is not shared by all veterans my own position is that the NOK of soldiers buried in in civilian cemeteries should be offered the opportunity of having their remains repatriated at public expense.     I am less convinced that this should be extended to those buried in the British Military Cemetery at Terendak, Melaka.   I have visited there a number of times .   It is well maintained and cared for.  

Having said that I acknowledge there will be pressure have these men bought back too given that the Australians have, in repatriating their own, made no distinction between civilian and military cemeteries.

I'm sure the VAB will consider at the matter sensitively.   A little bird tell me that Sir Wira Gardiner, himself a Vietnam veteran, will be seconded to the Board to assist them in their deliberations.   That is a smart move.  

Should the Board decide to recommend repatriation I would hazard a guess that a number of NOK will decline the offer taking the view that 50+ years is too long they should continue to 'Requiescat in pace'.

22 comments:

Noel said...

I remember been assigned to a detail to deliver a casket from the Tan Son Nhut mortuary to the Bristol Freighter.

As the casket slid inside I patted it and said to the remains something about going home to be with your own.

Took a few years before I was aware that they didn't return back to New Zealand.

Redbaiter said...

National party libs have got no problem, are even wildly enthusiastic about dishing out millions to so called Maoris, or refugees, or immigrants, even for such worthless causes as the repatriation of cannibalised human heads.

But ask for anything to honour the memory of the people who fought for and built this country, part of our real history, and not the remanufactured Marxist crap that passes for history today, and its a long hard road.

Anonymous said...

Should they bring my Grandad home from Cologne then? Its been 97 years since he died so a small box should do. I care so much (to my later regret as I grew older and began to value the history and example set) that I did not even know he was buried there and did not visit his grave when in Cologne in 1980. My Dad, who had served overseas in WW2, hadn't mentioned it.

I think there is a point when the painful past should be left alone and maybe this is it - we are lucky that we have had so few casualties in the last 60 years that repatriating remains is now considered practicable but beyond that observation I say let them be. My Grandad's medals and his photo hang on my lounge wall alongside my Dad's and that has to be enough. They are dead and their remains are in well tended cemeteries alongside (in accordance with his express wishes in my Dad's case) their comrades. I don't need a grave I can visit to appreciate and remember them.

3:16

Shelldrake said...

Well said, Anonymous. There are nearly 32,000 NZERS memorialized overseas where they fell. Sadly a good number have no known grave. They rest in peace in a foreign field with there mates who fell beside them. Let them remain at peace.

Those cemeteries and memorials are truly moving and along with the memorials in NZ are a permanent reminder as to where they fell and from where they came.

"Lest we forget"

Shelldrake said...

Well said, Anonymous. There are nearly 32,000 NZERS memorialized overseas where they fell. Sadly a good number have no known grave. They rest in peace in a foreign field with there mates who fell beside them. Let them remain at peace.

Those cemeteries and memorials are truly moving and along with the memorials in NZ are a permanent reminder as to where they fell and from where they came.

"Lest we forget"

Shelldrake said...

Well said, Anonymous. There are nearly 32,000 NZERS memorialized overseas where they fell. Sadly a good number have no known grave. They rest in peace in a foreign field with there mates who fell beside them. Let them remain at peace.

However, there may be some justification for those killed in SVN and who lie in Malaysia "in transit" back to NZ.

Those cemeteries and memorials on the battle fields of Europe, North Africa, and Italy and other battle sites are truly moving and along with the memorials in NZ are a permanent reminder as to where they fell and from where they came.

"Lest we forget"

The Veteran said...

Red .... if you can't make an intelligent comment without trying to stick it up National then you can go and f**k yourself. You know nothing about this. The process started just 18 months ago, up until then the RNZRSA position was no repatriation ... and Governments, past and present, accepted that advice.

RNZRSA changed their position and while it has taken 18 months for the Government to come on board they now have and good on them. But it would be wrong to think there is universal support for this in the veteran community. The posts by Anon and Shelldrake reflect that.

I am happy the matter is to be properly investigated. Stupid racist redneck comments by 'Worried from Tauranga' can and should be dismissed as crap because they are.

Anonymous said...

I hope common sense prevails as if it comes about some will be repatriated and some not.
To split comrades in death after 45 odd years is obscene particularly as when the Haks's have finished and the TV cameras have gone home they will be scattered all over NZ in nondescript cemeteries, rarely visited and left to the tender mercies of local councils....cemeteries are not high on councils to do list.

Next of Kin should have to sign a ten year contract with a garden company for grave maintenance. .....Watch the interest disappear.

Veteran....talk to idiots and they have the propensity to talk back.

Lord Egbut who does not forget.

Noel said...

Most were scattered in Cemeteries around New Zealand after 1967.
Going to demand retrospective maintenance contracts if the few remaining at Terendak are repatriated?

If the NOK want them back not for me or anyone else to put impediments in their way.

The Veteran said...

Egbut ... for the record. In NZL deceased ex-servicemen can, if they wish, choose to be buried in a service cemetery. There are 127 of them. Their day-to-day upkeep is the responsibility of the local council which is assisted by an annual grant from the Department of Internal Affairs (War Graves Branch). Major maintenance work is the responsibility of DIA.

The service cemeteries I have seen are well cared for. The system is working. There are of course numbers of ex-servicemen who choose, for a variety of reasons, not to be buried in service cemeteries preferring the public one. The maintenance of those graves is less assured. I would guess that if there is going to be repatriation not all will end up in service cemeteries.

Shelldrake said...

Well said, Anonymous. There are nearly 32,000 NZERS memorialized overseas where they fell. Sadly a good number have no known grave. They rest in peace in a foreign field with there mates who fell beside them. Let them remain at peace.

However, there may be some justification for those killed in SVN and who lie in Malaysia "in transit" back to NZ.

Those cemeteries and memorials on the battle fields of Europe, North Africa, and Italy and other battle sites are truly moving and along with the memorials in NZ are a permanent reminder as to where they fell and from where they came.

"Lest we forget"

Shelldrake said...

My apologies for multiple posts. Don't know how that happened. .
As an aside. The service cemeteries in NZ are maintained by VANZ who also provide commemorative plaques for Graves and memorial walls.

The Commonwealth War Graves located in NZ are managed by Internal Affairs as agents of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Shelldrake said...

My apologies for multiple posts. Don't know how that happened. .
As an aside. The service cemeteries in NZ are maintained by VANZ who also provide commemorative plaques for Graves and memorial walls.

The Commonwealth War Graves located in NZ are managed by Internal Affairs as agents of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Noel said...

When the Australians brought theirs home they made the opinion of the NOK paramount.
I hope the NZ investigators takes the same approach.
Yours and my opinion should have little influence over the opinion of the NOK.

Gerald said...

The top estimate cost is around the cost of Tim Grocers travel drumming up support for his WTO position challange.

Seems equitable?

The Veteran said...

Gerald ... or less than the $778,000 illegally spent by Labour in funding their 2005 election campaign. if the VAB recommend repatriation I can't see Government going against that advice. I don't think cost was ever the issue ... some are buried at Kranji in Singapore which is a CWGC cemetery and protocol has it that there should be no disinterment from CWGC cemeteries (the 'unknown warriors' the exception). There is also the question of the children of servicemen buried in Malaya including one in a Muslim cemetery. So it's perhaps not quite as straightforward as might be thought.

Whatever the outcome I know a number of relatives whose view is that they should remain undisturbed.

Noel said...

"Whatever the outcome I know a number of relatives whose view is that they should remain undisturbed."

And that's as it should be. Also there may also be relatives that want the remains returned.

No problem with that either as long as "Next of Kin should have to sign a ten year contract with a garden company for grave maintenance. .." isn't enforced.

The Veteran said...

Noel ... agreed. There is no need for that either if they are buried in a service cemetery which is their right. DIA/VANZ picks up the tab as it should. Not sure that Egbut was aware of that before floating his 10 year contract proposal which will never fly.

Gerald said...

" I don't think cost was ever the issue"


"Veterans’ board to consider repatriation


Veterans’ Affairs Minister Craig Foss has directed the Veterans’ Advisory Board (VAB) to consider New Zealand’s repatriation policy and provide advice to him.

New Zealand has a longstanding policy of not repatriating the bodies of military personnel who died while serving overseas between 1948 and mid-1970.

“While successive governments have maintained this policy, it has become increasingly clear that the rationale behind it needs further investigation,” Mr Foss says.

“I am therefore asking the VAB to consider the current policy on repatriation and provide advice to me. I have asked that its advice cover issues including (but not limited to):
• The wishes of the next of kin of those buried overseas;
• Culture — both New Zealand cultural considerations such as tikanga Maori, and the culture of the countries in which the service personnel are buried;
• Technical matters and logistics;
• The impact of any proposed changes on New Zealand’s bilateral relationships with relevant countries and how to best manage foreign policy considerations;
• The lessons learned from the 2016 repatriation of some Australian service personnel from Malaysia and Singapore;
• Legal issues;
• Cost.

“The Board will meet before 15 November and I have asked for initial advice before the end of March 2017.

“I have always said I am the Minister for all veterans. While many of those advocating for change are focussed on the personnel buried in Malaysia, I expect the Board to consider the policy in relation to all veterans and dependents who died while serving overseas between 1948 and mid-1970.

“I expect the Board to thoroughly consult the families of personnel buried overseas. Their experiences and stories are vital to ensuring a robust and fair process, with the right outcome.”

Mr Foss will make two additional appointments to VAB for the duration of its work on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Veteran.....I believe that if you are buried in the service part of the cemetery they must accept the standard head stone which is about 12 inches high with a 8x8 plaque attached. No individuality allowed. The NOK of the time ie, the parents, who are mainly dead now, invested a large amount of money in marble headstones. Presumably they will travel with the remains?
Does not that make the NOK who paid for repatriation at the time eligible for a return of their monies plus interest?

What about the veteran who died in a motorcycle accident on the KL road? Still a veteran and still dead. As usual more questions than answers.

Lord Egbut

Noel said...

Egbut as Gerald has pointed out. All will become clear in March next year.

The Veteran said...

Gerald ... cost is a factor but not I suspect the issue.

Egbut ... as you well know the same rationale is applied in CWGC cemeteries. There is no individualism ... in death everyone is equal. As to your other points and I guess the VAB will cover those off.

As an aside and while there was provision for the NOK to be billed the cost of repatriation from Malaysia to NZL I'm not sure if in fact this was ever enforced.