Thu, Feb 1, 2024 8:00 AM

Remembering those who served


Paula Hulburt

The words of remembrance are etched on black stone, a loving memorial to a husband and wife who lay together in Picton Cemetery.

Florence Edna Gullery was 42 years old when she died in 1948 and her husband Nathan Newton Gullery died at the of 62 in 1952.

A Private in the New Zealand Army, Nathan was awarded the 1914-15-star, British war, and Victory medals.

Now, the headstone marking the couples’ final resting place is looking good as new thanks to volunteers from The New Zealand Remembrance Army (NZRA) - Te Taua Manaaki o Ngā Morehu.

Their headstone was one of many military service graves and memorials to benefit from a careful clean recently.

The New Zealand Remembrance Army Chief Executive Simon Strombom says the team worked hard to make a positive difference.

“It’s looking immaculate up there [Picton Cemetery]. It was quite hot and overcast but that didn’t stop people turning up to help.

“This is about reconnecting with communities and that’s so important.”

Last Saturday, 20 volunteers from across the country arrived at Picton Cemetery, joined by locals from the RSA and Woodbourne ready to lend a hand.

Over the last six years, the NZRA has cleaned and cared for about 170,000 graves in most cemeteries across the country.

NZRA Volunteers helping to restore veteran's graves at Picton Cemetery.

NZRA rely on sponsorship donations to operate, with their two-day working bee in Picton costing about $5000 including flights.

“This event is an example of our work with local communities around the country to raise the standard of those graves and memorials,” Simon says.

A returned serviceman whose tour of duty saw him in Afghanistan, Simon is proud to help ensure the history and stories of those who served is not forgotten.

Younger volunteers are interested to hear about those whose last resting place they are helping maintain, Simon says.

“They can see the handwriting of the guy whose grave they cleaned, and you can tell the stories by the numbers and where they served.”

The Gullerys were married in 1922 and Nathan, a farmer, enlisted in October 1914.

He was invalided home to Waitata Bay in Pelorus Sound in 1915 after being shot in the shoulder before returning to the Western Front. He lost a leg at the Battle of the Somme.

The before and after of the Gullery's headstone.

Fitted with a wooden leg, he finally returned to New Zealand in January 1918 on the ship Tainui.

Talking about soldiers such as Nathan is vital to help people remember what they did,” Simon says.

“The key thing is to talk about their stories.”

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