Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Pacific war graves in Hornchurch

There's an interesting article in The Outrigger, the magazine of the Pacific islands Society, about the Pacific Islanders who fought in the First World War and whose graves can still be seen at St Andrew's Church in Hornchurch. Grey Towers, then a country house in Hornchurch, was acquired by the Army Council and used as the New Zealand Convalescent Hospital. Not only were more than a hundred New Zealand Maoris involved in WW1, but so too were men from the Cook Islands and Niue. The Pacific islanders had little immunity to European diseases and suffered very badly from the cold, many contracting pneumonia. Thankfully, the decision was taken to send the  islanders home. They were withdrawn to Hornchurch before travelling back to New Zealand. Although there are some happy tales of nights out in Hornchurch and London, four of the Niueans died while at Hornchurch and their graves are still tended, and it's good to see tafuliae, necklaces of Pacific shells, still on the graves.