ANZAC Day at Stonefall Cemetery – Sunday 24 April 2022.

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A ceremony to honour Second World War air force casualties from Australia and New Zealand is to be held at Stonefall Cemetery in Harrogate on Sunday 24 April 2022.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is delighted to announce that it will be hosting the Harrogate International Partnership’s Anzac Day Ceremony, honouring casualties from the Royal Australian Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force who are buried at the cemetery.

  • Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served”

The ceremony will see representation from both the Australian and New Zealand High Commission as well as the Mayor and Mayoress of Harrogate and Andrew Jones MP. The music will be provided by Tewit Youth Band and a pupil from Harrogate Grammar School will sing the New Zealand national anthem in both Maori and English.

The Anzac Day Ceremony has been organised by Kate Spencer, who looks after the twinning between Harrogate and Wellington for Harrogate International Partnerships.

Kate said:

I felt it was the right thing to do for these young airmen who, like thousands upon thousands of others, saw their lives cut drastically short in service of their country and the Commonwealth.

I have the full backing of the RNZAF and Wellington City Council, who are delighted that this inaugural ceremony will now be held this year and for many more years to come. With the help and support of Colin Gibbs BEM and Elizabeth Smith of the CWGC, the ceremony will be a fine tribute to honour all these young Australians and New Zealanders who lie here together.

The ceremony will highlight more than 100 casualties who were serving with the Australian and New Zealand Air Forces including Flight Officer Terence McKinley DFC of the RNZAF. McKinley, aged 21 and from Wellington, was piloting a Halifax bomber on a test flight on 14th November 1943 when both starboard engines failed just after take-off and the aircraft crashed just behind the Vale of York Hotel, Thirsk. Four of the five crew on board sadly lost their lives. McKinley had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross a few months before his death after completing a tour of duty. His citation describes him as ‘outstanding’ and says ‘his fine fighting spirit, courage and leadership have gained him the entire confidence of his crew’.

Harrogate International Partnerships has been twinned with the New Zealand capital of Wellington since 1953, with the New Zealand Garden that lies within Valley Gardens, a tribute to those Kiwi airmen buried at Stonefall. Following a recent visit to Wellington and meetings with the Mayor of Wellington and representatives from the Royal New Zealand Air Force, Kate initiated plans for an Anzac Day ceremony.

With more than 1,000 Commonwealth war graves, Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery is one of the largest CWGC sites in the North of England. The majority of burials are airmen who died during the Second World War when bomber command bases were established across Yorkshire. There are 97 Royal Australian Air Force and 23 Royal New Zealand Air Force servicemen buried at the site.

CWGC Public Engagement Coordinator, Elizabeth Smith, said:

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission cares for 170,000 war graves from both world wars at more than 12,500 locations in the UK. The Air Force plot at Stonefall Cemetery is unique in the North of England due to its size and resemblance to our sites overseas.

The majority of those remembered here are servicemen from across the Commonwealth. It is wonderful to have been able to support Harrogate International Partnership organise what we believe to be the first ever Anzac Day Ceremony at the site and remember those buried here who served with the Australian and New Zealand Air Force.

Members of the public are invited to attend the ceremony, which will take place in the war graves plot adjacent to Forest Lane. Parking is available in the cemetery car park off Forest Lane. Members of the public are invited to gather from 2.30pm for the ceremony start at 3pm.

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