In a touching display of respect and remembrance, a group of New Zealand and Australian soldiers recently dedicated their time to refresh the Codford War Cemetery in Wiltshire, England.
The cemetery, established during World War I, holds profound historical significance as the final resting place for 97 Australian and New Zealand troops.
The region was once the epicentre of large training and transfer camps for tens of thousands of soldiers during World War I.
In 1916, the New Zealand Command Depot, along with No 3 New Zealand General Hospital, were established in the area for those soldiers evacuated from the front lines and not yet fit to return to the front.
Nestled near St. Mary's Church in Codford, the cemetery, adorned with Irish Yews and Beech trees, stands as one of the largest ANZAC War Grave Cemeteries in the United Kingdom. And recently on these sacred grounds, soldiers engaged in gardening, raking, spreading mulch, and cleaning headstones as their way of connecting with and preserving their ANZAC histories.
The Codford War Cemetery, managed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, contains 66 New Zealanders, 31 Australians, and a Royal Army Medical Corps soldier from World War I, along with a lone Welsh Guardsman from World War II.
The soldiers, who passed away between 1916 and 1919, are a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made during a tumultuous period in history.
The volunteers, paying homage to the fallen, joined together for a short memorial service led by chaplains from Australia and New Zealand.
The New Zealand Army Chaplain accompanying our visitors said: “It is a rare and truly humbling experience to share in the preserving of our history like this, and all the more to share in it side by side with our Australian brothers and sisters."
Codford War Cemetery and adjacent St. Mary’s Church serve as a place of pilgrimage and reflection, inviting visitors to contemplate the tragic fates of young men who never returned to their loved ones.
The annual ANZAC Day commemoration service and local school ceremonies further emphasize the enduring importance of honouring those who gave their lives for freedom and peace.
Images and copy: New Zealand Defence Force