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Work Starts To Take Home Remains Of New Zealand Servicemen

Work Starts To Take Home Remains Of New Zealand Servicemen
Royal New Zealand Air Force personnel at the Suva Military Cemetery on April 23, 2018. Photo: NZDF
April 24
10:24 2018

The remains of the two Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) service men, Flight Lieutenant George Beban, MBE, and Fireman Leading Aircraftman Ralph Scott, will be returned to their families in New Zealand soon.

A group from the RNZAF, led by Cap­tain Carl Nixon, are in the country and started their work yesterday at the Suva Military Cemetery in Lovonilase Suva. They are working together with the Fiji Corrections Service (FCS) to exhume the remains and return them to New Zealand.

The late Flight Lieutenant Beban and the late Leading Aircraftman Scott died while they were based at the then RNZAF flying boat base at Laucala Bay.

Captain Nixon said the remains of the late servicemen would be the first to be returned to New Zealand under the project Te Auraki, (The Return), which seeks to bring back New Zealand per­sonnel buried around the world after January 1, 1955.

Repatriation efforts will also take place for those buried in Malaysia, Sin­gapore, Samoa, The United Kingdom and Republic of Korea.

Captain Nixon said: “After the two bodies are removed from their graves, they will be taken to a house in Suva for the forensic experts to identify them.

“Once identified the two bodies will be sealed and put into their coffins. A con­tinuous vigil by NZDF personnel will be held at a home in Laucala Bay where the coffins will be kept until they are flown by a Hercules to New Zealand.”

Yesterday, a blessing ceremony was held at the burial site led by Maori el­ders ‘Kaumatua’ and a Chaplain from the NZ Defence Force.

It was attended by the New Zealand High Commission, NZDF personnel, RFMF Staff Officer Coordination Cap­tain Eroni Duaibe and his staff and the media.

Captain Nixon said the two bodies should be handed over to the families in New Zealand on May 6.

He thanked the Fijian Government, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, the Ministry of Health, the Fiji Correc­tions Service and the Fiji Police Force for their help.

He said the overseas burial policy, be­tween 1899 and 1955, was to bury ser­vice personnel who died overseas close to where they died and not be repatri­ated to New Zealand.

In early 1955 the policy changed to allow families to repatriate personnel who died overseas for burial at home, paid at the families’ own expense.

In 1971 the policy changed again and Government offered to repatriate ser­vice personnel and their dependents at public expense.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback: maikab@fijisun.com.fj

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