Editorial: War grave discovery marks Armistice Day

Monday November 11, 2019 Written by Published in Opinion
Paula Paniani with the newly-located and restored grave of Banaba Tipe, who died of sickness he brought home to Aitutaki after serving in World War I. 19111007 Paula Paniani with the newly-located and restored grave of Banaba Tipe, who died of sickness he brought home to Aitutaki after serving in World War I. 19111007

Today we remember that at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the British-led Allies and the German-led Triple Alliance signed an Armistice to end the Great War.

The meeting of Marshal Foch and the German emissaries took place in the Marshal Foch's railway car, in the Compiegne Forest. Herr Erzberger introduced himself: "We represent the German government, and we have come to solicit an armistice."

This was the news the world – and Cook Islands – had longed for: Germany had surrendered. The First World War was over.

A conflict that had ravaged more than 30 nations and left almost 20 million people dead came to a quiet end in a railway carriage 40 miles from Paris.

Armistice Day this year is made especially meaningful by the discovery and restoration of the last two of the six graves of army veterans buried here who died from the illness or injury they brought home from their war service. There are others who may yet be added to this Roll of Honour.

The final grave to be found was that of Private Banaba Tipe. Aitutaki locals had given “bits and pieces of information” to visiting researchers, Chief Archivist Paula Paniani, Cate Walker and Paul Morrissey.

Just by coincidence, while on the way to the burial ground up Amuri heights, the team met Papa Ngatokorua Kana Meti coming out of his plantation, they say. And he was the one who led the team onto the burial ground covered by bush.

Two weeks ago his grandson David Meti, 19, had discovered the military grave and told his mum Colette Clarke – and they were able to lead the team to the exact location.

Paniani, Walker and Morrissey will fly back from Aitutaki on Wednesday, secure in the knowledge they have done everything possible to ensure these men and their sacrifices are remembered.

Paniani and Walker said they felt proud and emotional at finding Tipe’s grave. “He died almost 100 years ago and finally he will be honoured as he should be and his grave will be preserved for perpetuity.”

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