Should we bring our fallen soldiers home?

by Fiona Rae / 25 April, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - In Foreign Fields Witi Ihimaera

In Foreign Fields, Anzac Day.

For documentary In Foreign Fields, one of our most successful writers visited six countries to speak to the families of those buried in Commonwealth war graves.

Author Witi Ihimaera asks an important question in a new documentary screening on Anzac Day: should we bring our world-war dead home?

The journey is both personal and political for Ihimaera, whose uncle lies in a Tunisian cemetery. In In Foreign Fields (Māori TV, Anzac Day, 10.00am), he meets a number of people who want to bring their relatives back from faraway lands.

As he sets out, Ihimaera is not sure. His mother’s lifelong wish was that her brother, Rangiora Keelan, an infantry officer who died in 1943, should rest in the family urupa; he has been lying in Sfax Cemetery, south of Tunis, for 75 years. But, Ihimaera asks, if Keelan’s remains are to be repatriated, “should it be one or should it be all?”

One woman in no doubt is Sherrol Manton, whose brother Morrie died in Vietnam. The family was told in 1967 it would cost $10,000 to bring his body home and he would be buried in Malaya. Morrie was eventually brought back to New Zealand by the Americans, but a bitter taste remained.

Bringing soldiers’ bodies home is now an accepted practice, but it wasn’t always. The programme contains some fascinating history of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, founded in 1917 by Fabian Ware. Rudyard Kipling was also heavily involved and was responsible for much of the wording on monuments and gravestones, including the famous inscription for unknown soldiers, Known Unto God.

When we think of our war dead, we usually think of France or Gallipoli, but there are Kiwis in cemeteries around the globe. Paul Thomas’s brother, Adrian, died in 1956 during the Malay conflict and is buried at Cheras War Cemetery in Kuala Lumpur.

Thomas, a former soldier, is the founder of Families of the Forgotten Fallen, which successfully petitioned the Government to have the soldiers buried in Malaysia brought home.

Māori Television is once again devoting the day to Anzac-appropriate programming, beginning with the Auckland Dawn Service at 5.20am. Julian Wilcox and Alison Mau host.

Another new documentary, Kiwi Service Women of WWII (9.00am), features the stories of five female veterans: a former WAAF aircraftwoman, two Wrens, a land girl and a New Zealand Army nurse who went to the Middle East.

There’s also another chance to see Sam Neill’s excellent documentary Tides of Blood (3.55pm) and Taika Waititi’s short film Tama Tū (3.35pm).

This article was first published in the April 21, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Latest

Why the vicar of Grantchester is James Norton's most complex character yet
91260 2018-05-22 00:00:00Z Television

Why the vicar of Grantchester is James Norton's mo…

by Fiona Rae

Actor James Norton has played a painter, a prince and a murderer, but none has been so conflicted as Anglican vicar Sidney Chambers in Grantchester.

Read more
The seven big threats to KiwiBuild
91218 2018-05-22 00:00:00Z Property

The seven big threats to KiwiBuild

by Nikki Mandow

KiwiBuild aims to provide 100,000 homes over the next decade. But can it deliver? Some in construction regard the target as hopelessly over-ambitious.

Read more
Win the Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
91256 2018-05-21 16:48:31Z Win

Win the Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Po…

by The Listener

To celebrate the arrival of Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive to Sky Arts, the Listener is giving away copies of his complete tales and poems.

Read more
Get the best of both worlds at 1947 eatery
91249 2018-05-21 16:27:35Z Auckland Eats

Get the best of both worlds at 1947 eatery

by Kate Milliken

Metro Top 50 restaurant 1947 eatery is all about the traditions of Indian cuisine in a sleek, modern setting.

Read more
A Garage Project party, a film about Coco's Cantina and other Auckland food news
91214 2018-05-21 14:22:42Z Auckland Eats

A Garage Project party, a film about Coco's Cantin…

by Kate Richards

What’s happening and what’s coming up in Auckland food.

Read more
Siri, what the hell is happening in Westworld?
91196 2018-05-21 10:38:46Z Television

Siri, what the hell is happening in Westworld?

by Greg Dixon

The revolting robots of Westworld’s first series are back with a vengeance in the second outing – and it's all quite confusing.

Read more
Government cans plans for mega-prison at Waikeria
91188 2018-05-21 08:50:48Z Social issues

Government cans plans for mega-prison at Waikeria

by Craig McCulloch

Plans to build a new mega-prison at Waikeria have been scrapped, but the government has yet to decide what to do instead.

Read more
Auckland Council stalled release of reports
91183 2018-05-21 07:20:04Z Auckland Issues

Auckland Council stalled release of reports

by Todd Niall

The release of the $935k consultants' report on a downtown stadium was the third time RNZ had to resort to the Ombudsman to extract public information

Read more