Is Linwood Cemetery an ‘RSA’ Cemetery?
There is no such thing as a ‘RSA’ cemetery. Recognised areas within certain public cemeteries have been designated as ‘Services Cemeteries’ by local Councils. These areas are administered by the local authority with input and financial support from Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand (VANZ).
Linwood Cemetery is a public cemetery and is not designated as a Services Cemetery, yet there are over 300 service personnel commemorated in the cemetery.
There aren’t a large number of distinctive ‘RSA’ headstones and plaques in the cemetery. How come The Friends think there are so many service people buried in Linwood Cemetery?
Firstly, they aren’t ‘RSA’ headstones / plaques. Even though this term is used colloquially, calling them ‘services memorials’ is preferred. This term encompasses both the bronze plaques and the distinctive granite headstones.
There are different ways that service personnel are remembered in Linwood Cemetery:
The overall total number of service personnel remembered in Linwood Cemetery at the moment is currently about 300 people.
See our Roll of Honour for details.
Why aren’t you sure how many?
As far as we know, this information hasn’t been compiled by anyone before. We have found this out by taking the list of war casualties from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website cemetery reports for Linwood Cemetery, going through the records of the Transcript of Headstones for Linwood Cemetery recorded by the NZ Society of Genealogists in 1979 and checking our photo-archive for information inscribed on headstones. Sadly this latter record is very patchy as we unexpectedly lost our data 2 years ago.
The men and women whose loss is recorded on family monuments do not appear on the CCC Cemetery Database as they are not buried in the cemetery. We know of them only from the NZGS Transcript of Headstones (1979). If the headstone was lost or removed before 1979, there is currently no record of a remembrance unless a new headstone has been installed since then. We only know of memorial headstones added after 1979 by seeing them in the cemetery or being told about them. There may also be people buried in Linwood Cemetery who died in military service in NZ, but this is not always acknowledged on their headstone or burial record pertaining to Linwood Cemetery. They may come up in other research that we do in the future. When any of these are discovered our records will be adjusted to reflect this. (We have over 20,000 graves to ‘keep an eye on’!)
Why don’t they all have services memorials?
The families of those who died in service during war time, i.e. whose graves are True War Graves would all have been offered a free memorial by the government, but not all families accept this offer. All casualties of the two World Wars who died overseas are buried or commemorated on Memorials to the Missing in the theatres of war in which they died. War veterans are entitled to subsidised headstones but, again, not all families want them. The services memorials you see in the cemetery are marking graves of service personnel who died as war casualties (True War Graves) and are interred in the cemetery. That’s only about 18% (or less than one fifth) of the total service personnel remembered in Linwood cemetery.
What’s the difference between a ‘True War Grave’ and a ‘Veteran Grave’?
For a grave to be classed as a True War Grave of WW1 or WW2, the casualty must have been a serving member of the forces who died during wartime or shortly after of an accident, illness or as a result of wounds, within defined dates. For WW1, the dates are from 4 August 1914 until 31 August 1921, and for WW2, between 3 September 1939 and 31 December 1947.
The sites of battlefields and overseas service cemeteries are so far away from New Zealand, especially at a time when travel back to Europe took a life-time of saving and the journey at least 3 months. So, for most people, visiting the final burial place of a relative killed in a war was, and still is, a wish rather than a possibility. Therefore, it was common for families to add the details of their lost loved one to an existing family grave to go to as a place of remembrance nearer to home.
The True War Graves in Linwood Cemetery tend to be for people who died in NZ, for example, during training, on troopships, or on leave. There were outbreaks of influenza and meningitis at NZ Training Camps (Trentham, Featherston, Awhiti) in 1918 which caused the death of many service personnel before they even finished their training, let alone reached the war zone.
People who served in wartime either within NZ or overseas, but who died outside the dates given above, are war Veterans rather than war casualties. A grave of a service person who died between 3 September 1939 and 31 December 1947 and who is not on the list of True War Graves for WW2, will be because s/he is a Veteran of WW1 who died in those years, not a serving member of the forces of WW2, or because his/her death was not attributable to war service. Eligible war Veterans are entitled to a subsidised services memorial supplied by VANZ, a service formerly provided by the NZ Department of Internal Affairs.
If the internment of a deceased Veteran is to be in a public cemetery (as with Linwood Cemetery), the next of kin can order a standard ex-service memorial, either a plaque or headstone, at a subsidised rate through VANZ . Ex-service memorials are of a uniform style and there is no provision for personal messages or photographs. These are the distinctive service headstones and plaques (the ones most people incorrectly call ‘RSA’ headstones). The family may provide their own more personal memorial at their own cost.
Whose responsibility is it to look after the grave plots and headstones of True War Graves and Veterans’ graves?’
True War Graves come under the care of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Its agent in New Zealand is the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission makes no distinction between True War Graves with standard soldiers’ headstones and those with private family memorials. The Commission does not make structural changes to a grave with a private memorial on it, just keep what is there clean and in good repair. True War Graves are checked every 2 years by a representative of National Monuments and War Graves – Heritage Operations Section of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. These grave plots are generally in a very good condition, or earmarked for maintenance following the next visit. Since the two recent Christchurch earthquakes (4th September 2010 and 22nd February 2011) the Friends have forwarded information about damage to the Heritage Operations Section which, so far, appears to be minimal.
There are only 54 True War Graves in Linwood Cemetery. These were restored to comply with CWGC standards en masse by the Department of Internal Affairs / CCC circa 1989. Sir Arthur Hockaday, the then UK-based Director-General of the CWGC, visited Linwood Cemetery whilst in NZ to inspect the maintenance and reconstruction work. (ref: The Press, 13 April 1989, p6)
Maintenance of Veterans’ graves is the responsibility of their families, not any other organisation, even if the headstone is a standard services memorial.
Maintenance of grave plots and headstones with additional remembrances to service personnel buried overseas are the responsibility of the family in line with public cemetery By-laws and burial terms and conditions.
How many True War Graves are there in Christchurch?
This table shows the number of True War Graves in the different cemeteries in Christchurch. Even though it does not contain a Services Cemetery, Linwood has the highest number of True War Graves for WW1, yet The Friends believe it is the most poorly maintained and neglected by the City Council, the ancestors of those buried in it, and the local community.
|Bromley (contains a Services Cemetery)||15||94|
|Ruru (contains a Services Cemetery)||0||2|
|Avonside Anglican Church||1||0|
|Papanui Anglican Church||4||0|
|Burwood Anglican Church||0||2|
|Harewood Anglican Church||0||1|
|Upper Riccarton Church||1||1|
|Woodlawns Memorial Garden||0||33|
Why are some of the graves of service personnel in such a bad state?
How are The Friends involved?
As ‘self-appointed guardians’ of Linwood Cemetery, we draw attention to the ‘needs’ of all those people buried in it, its value as a greenspace for the local community and an important heritage site for Christchurch. We are passionate about the cemetery’s preservation and maintenance. The cemetery is too large for the City Council or other funders to restore graves. If the fabric of a grave plot poses a threat to public safety, the City Council once aware of the danger, do the minimum to make it safe. The City Council only does basic land maintenance. The Friends tidy, garden and raise money for particular projects in the cemetery.
By realising there are so many more ex-service personnel than usually defined by the True War Graves, it can be seen that the number of those ‘ANZACs’ remembered in the cemetery is a significant percentage of Christchurch’s (and nearly 1% of NZ’s total) war dead. These deserve the attention of their descendants, our local community, heritage departments and organisations. Although some of these heroes are not buried in the cemetery, it is most important that they are included in the cemetery’s profile so we can ensure New Zealand families still have a place to go to remember their ancestors and those who have no one left to remember them continue to be honoured.
One of the reasons The Friends of Linwood Cemetery exists is to preserve the memory of the deeds of those in the past who are buried there. People who all gave a personal contribution (great or small) to Christchurch, New Zealand, and the free world we know today, Lest We Forget.
Find out about our ANZAC Day Commemorative Event.
How can I find information about an ancestor who served in NZ military forces?
- ask family members what they remember or for any documents they might have
- check Cenotaph database
- check CWGC Cemetery Report
- check Archives NZ Archway
- check CCC Cemeteries Database by family name [and do a search by Block and Plot in case there are other inhabitants in the grave with them]
- check Papers Past with various search strings
- check Google for name and/or military number
- check CCC Library Heritage Section for how to find information about WW1 service personnel
- ask The Friends to locate the grave plot for you and, if available in Linwood Cemetery, photograph it. (There is a charge for this)
What can I do to help?
The Friends of Linwood Cemetery Trust are sincerely grateful to the following people for their time and contributions to this article and the Roll of Honour:
- Margaret Marks, National Monuments and War Graves – Heritage Operations Section of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
- Ray Marshall, Veteran’s Affairs NZ (a Department of the New Zealand Defence Force)
- Richard Greenaway, CCC Libraries
Research: Alexandra Gilbert, Secretary, The Friends of Linwood Cemetery
© The Friends of Linwood Cemetery Charitable Trust, 2011