Grateful for grave care
A story about an Englishwoman who visits the graves of Kiwi solders in Staffordshire was used by Fairfax newspapers around the country. Family members of those soldiers read the story and got in touch, as Karina Abadia reports.
Pauline visits the two graves three or four times a year, including Remembrance Sunday when she plants poppies.
Richard first read the story in the Timaru Herald. He was surprised to learn that one of the graves belonged to his great-uncle Jack Clive Allan.
‘‘I thought: ‘ Oh I know who that is’. It’s such a lovely thing for someone to do. It was just fortunate I knew some of the family history,’’ he says.
The family lived in Christchurch but later moved to Northland.
Jack was one of 10 children and married Irene Dunbar in 1914.
They had a son, also called Jack, and lived in Eden Cres in central Auckland.
Jack Sr died of influenza and lobar pneumonia in 1918. He was 32. Richard’s family remained in contact with Irene, who was nicknamed Rene.
‘‘She was a favourite of my father’s and she never remarried,’’ Richard says.
Pauline also visits the grave of Ponsonby resident Trevor Raymond Knox.
Pauline chose Aucklanders Trevor and Jack among the 70-odd New RICHARD ALLAN has never had the opportunity to visit his great-uncle’s grave in England but he’s delighted to know that someone is keeping an eye on it.
The story of British woman Pauline Hannigan adopting the World War I graves of two Auckland soldiers in Cannock Chase, Staffordshire, first appeared in the Auckland City Harbour News on October Zealanders buried in the Commonwealth War Graves site because her son Jeremy Scull lives in Auckland.
Bruce Knox was moved to read about Pauline’s connection to his Uncle Trevor in the Western Leader.
Trevor’s family lived in John St in Ponsonby and was the youngest of four brothers who fought in WWI.
The other three returned home but two of them were badly injured.
‘‘Even though we’ve known for some time where Uncle Trevor was buried ... being so far away we have never been able to visit his grave personally,’’ the Avondale resident says.
The story of his sacrifice lives on in the Knox household. Trevor was only 20 when he died of septicaemia in 1918.
‘‘We have always had a striking picture of Uncle Trevor, in full military uniform, hanging in the family home and everyone who sees it asks about him.’’
Pauline has been
in contact with both men in the past two months.
Learning more about ‘‘her boys’’ has been an enriching experience, she says.
‘‘I really feel as if they were members of my own family.
‘‘They are no longer anonymous grave plots but real characters and I am so happy to visit them on behalf of their blood relatives.’’
But that’s not the end of the story.
Pauline adopted a third grave after Waikanae man Geoff McMillan read the story in the Dominion Post and got in touch with her.
His uncle Charles Robert McMillan is buried in Cannock Chase.
The Southland sawmiller died of disease at the age of 25 on November 17, 1918, just a few months after beginning his voyage. He was one of three brothers who enlisted, but the other two made it home.
Pauline isn’t the first person to adopt Charles’ grave, Geoff says.
In 1921 a woman wrote to his mother asking for seeds to sow on his grave and a year later she sent a watercolour she’d painted of the grave site.
It’s lovely to know Pauline also shares an interest in the family history, he says.
‘‘We had a long chat on the phone, which was nice.
‘‘I’ve been fascinated about the whole thing for years.
‘‘I’m thinking of taking a trip to Cannock Chase for Anzac Day next year.’’
Pauline hopes to catch up with the three men and their families when she’s in New Zealand in January.
War stories: Pauline Hannigan is thrilled to have heard from several people related to the Kiwi soldiers whose graves she visits in England.