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Families sought as Lake Alice Hospital veterans' graves identified

A ceremony will be held next month to bless a number of previously unmarked graves of First and Second World War veterans who died while in the care of the old Lake Alice Psychiatric Hospital, in the Rangitikei district.

03 February, 2023

The 34 graves have been identified by Marton RSA life member Barry Rankin, and the organisation is keen to connect the deceased servicemen with any living relatives. 

“It would be wonderful to hear from anyone who may be related to these men, who have lain anonymously for too many years. They served their country and gave more than most and it would be fitting for their families to know where they are,” Mr Rankin said. 

Lake Alice Hospital was on the outskirts of Marton and operated from 1950 until 1999. Some veterans who suffered from ‘shell shock’ were admitted for treatment, sometimes without relatives knowing.

A number died while at Lake Alice and they were usually buried in Mount View Cemetery, many in unmarked graves.

In 2016, a member of the public approached Mr Rankin to see if he could find the grave of her uncle, Leonard Hardcastle, a returned serviceman who had died while a Lake Alice patient.

Mr Rankin found a record of Mr Hardcastle’s burial, on the Rangitikei District Council’s cemeteries website. The council provided a map of the cemetery’s graves, but for this serviceman there was no headstone or plaque.

“Archives New Zealand service records confirmed he died in Marton and also his religion. With that bit of extra information I found the church record of his funeral details, which confirmed we had the right person,” he said.

The family was deeply grateful Mr Rankin could find the plot. 

Mr Rankin, who had no experience in such work, decided to investigate further. He discovered the names of all the patients who had died at Lake Alice and began working through that list looking for returned servicemen and their graves.

He had since discovered the final resting place of a further 33 servicemen.

“The sad thing is, these men were lost to their families at the time. We now have a chance to reconnect them.” 

Marti Eller, Deputy Head of Veterans’ Affairs, said Veterans’ Affairs was very pleased to be able to support Mr Rankin.

The organisation had helped with determining service records of the deceased veterans, and funded gravestones and plaques.

“It’s important for the families of those veterans and for us. This work honours their service to our country,” she said.

“Mr Rankin has put an enormous amount of hard work and care into locating the last resting places of these veterans. We hope there are family members out there who would like to honour them.”

The Marton RSA, in association with the Rangitikei District Council and subject to COVID-19 restrictions, will hold a commemoration and blessing of the graves at Mount View Cemetery, State Highway 1 (500m north of the Calico Line intersection), at 1pm on Saturday 4 February.

The Marton RSA would like to hear from anyone who may have had a relative or knows of a serviceman who was at Lake Alice Hospital, so they can be invited. 

Please contact Mr Alan Buckendahl:

The list of recently identified servicemen buried at Mt View cemetery: 

1.      John Keeling ADDENBROOKE

2.      William James Dix BARNES

3.      Leonard William BEACH

4.      Henry George BLANCHARD

5.      Leslie William BURTON

6.      Norman Gibson CAMERON

7.      Robert CARMICHAEL

8.      Arthur William CHARLES

9.      Harry CLARK

10.  John CORR

11.  Cyril James COTTIER  

12.  Charles Henry FAULKNER

13.  Peter FERGUSON

14.  William Ernest FROST

15.  Leonard HARDCASTLE

16.  Frank Edward HARTLEY

17.  Douglas Alan HOGG

18.  George KEENAN

19.  Cecil Charles KISBY

20.  Edward KNIPE

21.  Arthur LAURENCE

22.  William LEWIS

23.  John Patrick MCCOLL

24.  Oliver Richard MILDON

25.  Eric Leslie MOORE

26.  Denis MOYNIHAN

27.  William Walter NEWBERRY

28.  Louis Clarke O'HALLORAN

29.  George PURDY

30.  Wilfrid Luxton READY

31.  William SNOW

32.  James Valentine STEWART

33.  Clifford Edward Oliver WALKER

34.  Archibald WATSON