Handmade tributes mark soldiers' graves - Poppies given Kiwi touch

An army museum archivist hopes to place a little bit of New Zealand on the graves of 33,000 Kiwis buried in foreign soil.

After a day's work at the National Army Museum in Waiouru, Dolores Ho returns home to make hundreds of crosses from native flax to be placed at military cemeteries around the world.

Ho made her first crosses from harakeke in 2008 after trying to gather enough poppies to place on 73 Kiwi graves in the Cannock Chase War Cemetery in England.

Unable to find enough poppies, she made up the shortfall with the handmade crosses, which were placed at the cemetery on Anzac Day 2008.

"From then onwards other people saw it and started saying, 'There's a war cemetery near us; can you send some to us?' Then I thought I would do it for every Kiwi grave wherever they may be," Ho said.

She said she had covered more than 5000 graves, including some in Europe and North Africa.

Ho has never travelled to place the crosses herself and depends on people making requests from overseas or delivering them while travelling from New Zealand.

She said she felt a connection with the distant dead through her work, and it was important for someone to mark the graves because relatives were often unable to travel overseas.

"Now every night I make about 35. If there's a cemetery with more than 1000 graves, I have to push myself."

One of those to deliver a consignment was Bill Brocklebank, of Cambridge, whose father was killed at Tebaga Gap, in Tunisia, in 1943.

Brocklebank placed more than 170 crosses on the graves of his father and his fallen comrades at the Sfax War Cemetery in August, including the grave of Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu, who was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery at Tebaga Gap.

"It was quite an emotional occasion," said Brocklebank, 67.

Ho is appealing for help from anyone travelling to countries where there are New Zealand graves or who lives overseas and would be prepared to place the crosses.

BY GILES BROWN - The Press

http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/4225956/Handmade-tributes-mark-soldiers-graves

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