The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is delighted to announce that it will be hosting Harrogate International Partnership’s Anzac Day Ceremony at Stonefall Cemetery, Harrogate on Sunday 23 April 2023. The ceremony is to honour the Second World War casualties from the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) who are buried at the site.
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: “As a New Zealander, our day of commemoration for those who fell in both World Wars is on the 25th April each year. The history of Anzac Day stems from the landings of 16,000 Australian and New Zealand forces on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey, now referred to as Anzac Cove, on 25th April 1915. Together with allied forces, more than 100,000 lives were lost in that campaign. A year ago I organised our first ANZAC Day commemoration and I feel so privileged to be preparing once again to honour not only my New Zealand countrymen buried in Stonefall, but also 97 Australians who gave their young lives in the service of their countries.
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. Kate has recently been in Wellington to meet with the RNZAF who are overwhelmed and grateful with what is now taking place at Stonefall for their fallen airmen.
Kate who in March this year presented gifts to the new Mayor of Wellington, Tory Whanau, said:
This year is special for Harrogate and Wellington who will celebrate 70 years of twinning. It was in 1953 that the New Zealand Garden in Harrogate Valley Gardens was established and the link between Harrogate and the 23 New Zealanders buried in Stonefall was recognised.
Not only the RNZAF but Wellington City Council are enormously grateful for everything being done to honour their men in this way. We look forward to welcoming you at the event and we are grateful to the CWGC for hosting the commemoration.
With over 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. I am delighted that Harrogate International Partnership has once again organised an Anzac Day Ceremony at Stonefall Cemetery to give the public a chance to give thanks for those who gave their lives and now rest so far from home.
The ceremony will highlight over 100 casualties who were serving with the Australian and New Zealand Air Forces including Pilot Officer Alfred Churchill Lockyer of the RNZAF. Lockyer, aged 23 and from Wellington, arrived at RAF North Killingholme, Lincolnshire on the 14th March 1945. Three days later, Lockyer was piloting a Lancaster bomber on a night-time training flight when the crew was told to douse their lights due to an air raid warning in Hull. A Luftwaffe twin-engined aircraft appeared behind the Lancaster and attacked them. Lockyer managed to evade the first three attacks by performing a corkscrew but the final attack hit the rear and a fire broke out. Just off the coast of Withernsea, Lockyer ordered the crew to bail out. Sadly, only one member of the crew of seven survived. This Lancaster is believed to be the last Allied bomber to be shot down by the Luftwaffe over the United Kingdom.
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 Harrogate Band and a pupil from Harrogate Grammar School will sing the New Zealand national anthem in both Maori and English.
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. Member of the public are invited to gather from 12.30pm. The ceremony will commence at 1pm.
About the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: We honour and care for the men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the First and Second World Wars, ensuring they will never be forgotten. Funded by six Member Governments, our work began with building, and now maintaining, cemeteries at 23,000 locations all over the world.
Today, over a century after we first began, our work continues through our staff, supporters and volunteers who preserve our unique cultural, horticultural, and architectural heritage and ensure that the stories of those who died are told.
About the Commonwealth War Graves Foundation: The Commonwealth War Graves Foundation is the charitable arm of the Commission. It aims to engage and educate people – especially the young, with the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and tells the inspiring stories of the men and women who died whilst fighting in the two World Wars.
The Foundation is a small and developing charity funded by donations, sponsorship and public support, and offers a programme of innovative educational and engagement activities and volunteer programmes.
Join the Foundation as a member today, stay up to date with the work of the Commission and the Foundation and support our mission in perpetuating remembrance. Help us keep their stories alive: foundation.cwgc.org
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