harrogate war graves

ANZAC Day ceremony to honour Second World War casualties at Stonefall Cemetery

9 April 2024

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is delighted to announce it will be hosting Harrogate International Partnership’s Anzac Day Ceremony at Stonefall Cemetery, Harrogate on Sunday 21st April.

The ceremony is to honour the Second World War casualties from the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force who are buried at the site, as well as the thousands of other service personnel buried around the world.

The Anzac Day Ceremony is organised each year by Kate Spencer, who is the representative for the sister-city relationship between Harrogate and Wellington for Harrogate International Partnerships.


Kate said:

Every year on the 25th April, dawn services are held all over the globe to remember the historic day in 1915 when the Australian and New Zealand forces began their offensive on the Gallipoli Peninsula in northern Turkey. It was an offensive that would see 16,000 ANZAC troops go into battle with their allies, with more than 100,000 lives lost in that campaign. As a New Zealander, I feel so privileged to be preparing once again to honour not only my New Zealand countrymen buried at Stonefall, but also the 97 Australians who are buried here. I look forward to welcoming everyone to the service.


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 undertaken research on her fellow countrymen buried at the site, one of these is Pilot Officer Denis Patrick Kyne who died age 22 on the 18th of October 1943 when the plane he was piloting crashed in the Howden Moors, South Yorkshire. Kyne’s father, Patrick served with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey during the First World War. He survived and went on to outlive his son by more than35 years.

As well as highlighting the casualties who were serving with the Australian and New Zealand Air Forces, this year special attention will be paid to Flight Lieutenant Vincent Parker who served with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) and is also buried at Stonefall. Born in County Durham, Parker moved to Australia as a child returning to Britain to serve in the RAFVR after the outbreak of the Second World War.

Having been shot down over the English Channel during the Battle of Britain, Parker was taken as a prisoner of war by the Germans. Once a prisoner, he was continuously involved in escape attempts from the camps and eventually he was imprisoned at Colditz. His escape attempts continued there and he earned the moniker the ‘Locksmith of Colditz’ due to his lock picking skills. To mark ANZAC Day in 1944 some of the prisoners decided to hold an ANZAC dinner and Parker, as an honorary Australian, was enlisted to distil the ‘grog’.



Kate added:

This ANZAC Day marks the 80th anniversary of that Colditz ANZAC dinner which was planned by the Australian prisoners as a way to mark the day and raise spirits. Thankfully, it was the last ANZAC day the men were to spend as prisoners as they were liberated in April 1945. Sadly for Parker, he was to lose his life on exercise for the Air Force in January 1946 flying near Holy Island. It’s a cruel irony that his life post liberation was so much shorter than his life in captivity. We will raise a metaphorical glass of grog to Parker and all of the Australian and New Zealand service personnel at our ANZAC service.


With more than 1,000 Commonwealth war graves, Harrogate’s Stonefall Cemetery is one of the largest CWGC sites in the North of England. The majority of burials are airmen from bomber crews who died during the Second World War. 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 CWGC 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. 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 see representation from the Royal Australian Air Force, the New Zealand Royal Air Force, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire and local dignitaries. The music will be provided by Harrogate Band, with accompaniment by a pupil from St. John Fisher Catholic High School.

Members of the public are invited to attend the ceremony which will take place in the war graves plot adjacent to Forest Lane. They are invited to gather from 12.30pm. The ceremony will commence at 1pm. Parking is available in the cemetery car park off Forest Lane.


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