Hunt for Mangaia’s Soldiers

Wednesday October 10, 2018 Written by Published in Local
Cate Walker and Paul Morrissey at the newly-restored memorial to Lance Corporal Mata Metuatane. Morrissey discovered the headstone, partially submerged on the bank near the cemetery, during a clean-up two years ago. Walker said: “We retrieved it and contacted the family who have given us permission (to work on the headstone) and they are very grateful. It is now back where it belongs.” 18100917 Cate Walker and Paul Morrissey at the newly-restored memorial to Lance Corporal Mata Metuatane. Morrissey discovered the headstone, partially submerged on the bank near the cemetery, during a clean-up two years ago. Walker said: “We retrieved it and contacted the family who have given us permission (to work on the headstone) and they are very grateful. It is now back where it belongs.” 18100917

Australian businesswoman and champion of the Nikao Cemetery Restoration Project, Cate Walker is flying out to Mangaia today to document the graves of 44 World War I soldiers there.

 

Joining Walker are her husband Paul Morrissey and Paula Paniani from the National Archives.

“We have a list of approximately 44 returned servicemen who are buried there from WWI,” Walker told CINews.

“Our plan is to locate, document, GPS map and photograph all of these soldiers, as many as we can find, because some didn’t get a military headstone.

“So we have got a lot of their genealogy records and war records and we will go and talk to the elderly people on Mangaia. We have a lot of contacts there who are willing to help us.”

Walker says she only knows the location of “perhaps six or so ANZACs, so it’s a fair old job”.

“I believe they are spread around the island - that’s what makes it hard. Some are together, like in the churchyards.”

She said: “There is another soldier I have a photo of - he didn’t get a military headstone he’s got a private headstone.”

According to Walker, images of the graves on Mangaia show they need work.

“They need some restoration work done so Paula and I have got the equipment and the tools, with the permission of the people, to do what we can while we are searching for the ANZACs on Mangaia.

“Our hope is that this will spread to all of the islands.”

Walker said it was important to map and document the graves and their locations and then keep the information in the Cook Islands archives.

“Because it’s not like say Australia, or New Zealand, where the war dead are buried together in a war cemetery or in a special section.

“We are hoping that each island can then photo and document their ANZACs and they can be GPS mapped and that information can be kept in archives forever.”

The GPS mapping will help future restoration work if the old soldiers’ graves are destroyed in a storm or flooding.

Walker, Morrissey and Paniani will be on Mangaia for five days.

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