The theme for this week's Photohunt is in memoriam. I still have not had the chance to head off out to take new photographs (except in the garden) so here are some reposted photos of gravestones in Hornchurch. There will be a lot of wordage as these gravestones do deserve to have the back story told.
This is the grave of Raimund Sanders Draper was born in 1914 to a wealthy American family (interesting his was the nephew of Anglo-American comedienne Joyce Grenfell). While the USA was still neutral he came to the UK to join the Royal Air Force and was commissioned as an Officer in September 1941. After serving in various locations as a fighter pilot his squadron moved to RAF Hornchurch in March 1943 ( RAF Hornchurch was an important fighter station. Its squadrons had fought with distinction during the Battle of Britain).
On 26 March Sanders Draper took off from RAF Hornchurch. Whilst approaching the the nearby Suttons school his engine failed. He had the decision of baling out and to let the aircraft hit the school or to save the school by staying with the stricken aircraft . He chose the latter but he was killed in the ensuing crash and explosion. In the early 1970s Suttons School was renamed Sanders Draper who gave his life to save the lives of others.
These are the graves of four men from the Pacific island of Niue who died in hospital in Hornchurch during WWI. This is their story. It is based on an article written by Margaret Pointer in the New Zealand Herald.
The military parade in Auckland's Queen on February 4, 1916 was unusual: among the 1500 men that day were 140 from Niue. The men were part of the 3rd Maori Contingent who were recruited to maintain the Contingent which had suffered heavily during the Gallipoli campaign the previous year.
Niue had become a New Zealand Protectorate in 1901. When war began in August 1914, the island had a population of around 4000, including 30 Europeans. The Europeans felt the need to make some sort of war effort and they suggested a Niue regiment and arranged the recruitment of men and their drilling on the village greens.
The 140 men brought to New Zealand had never left the island before. Over four months the Niue Islanders underwent training. In February 1916 the Niue Islanders were ready for service and were sent initially to Egypt. but soon the order came to go to Northern France to provide support on the Western Front.
The Niueans were part of a Pioneer Battalion working at night to maintain a network of trenches. They suffered terribly from illness and by late May 1916, 82% of them had been hospitalised. The army authorities made the decision to withdraw the Niueans from Northern France and assemble them at the New Zealand Convalescent Hospital in Hornchurch, England, where they could be cared for before sailing to New Zealand. The people of Hornchurch still tend the graves of the four Niueans who are buried there.