On Sunday 23 April 2023, the Anzac Memorial Ceremony was held at the Stonefall Cemetery in Harrogate.
Stonefall includes a War Graves Cemetery maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which is one of the largest CWGC sites in the North of England. Buried at Stonefall are 97 Royal Australian Air Force crew and 23 Royal New Zealand Air Force crew – four of whom came from Wellington, Harrogate’s sister city. After the second world war, visitors came to Harrogate to visit their war dead, and one couple moved permanently from New Zealand to Harrogate to be near their son. Also buried at Stonefall are over 660 Canadian aircrew, one of whom came from Barrie, Ontario, which is also twinned with Harrogate. The links which grew then remain important today.
ANZAC day 2023 was Tuesday 25 April, when ceremonies were held at dawn across Australia and New Zealand. Harrogate International Partnerships had obtained permission to hold the ceremony on the nearest Sunday.
The ceremony started with the Parade of Harrogate Air Cadets bearing the flags of Australia and New Zealand. This was followed by the Dedication given by Richard Barrett and The Airmen’s Hymn led by the Harrogate Band. Introductions were given by Richard Barrett on behalf of Harrogate International Partnerships.
Addresses were made by Lt. Colonel Colin Morrison of the Royal Australian Defence Force, and by Flt. Lieutenant Dan Channon (in both English and Māori) of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. These were interspersed with two songs led by Harrogate Grammar School student Amelia McQuire – firstly Waltzing Matilda, and then Pōkarekare Ana as a poignant solo voice, with verses in both English and Māori.
Gareth Gibbs led the Remembrance, during which the Last Post was sounded and a two minute silence followed.
Wreaths were then laid by civic, civilian and military representatives. These included:
Christopher Legard, Vice Lord-Lieutenant of North Yorkshire
Michael Harrison, Charter Mayor of Harrogate,
Andrew Jones, Member of Parliament for Harrogate and Knaresborough
Alex Nuttall, Mayor of Barrie, Ontario
Lt Col Colin Morrison of the Royal Australian Defence Force
Flt Lt Dan Channon of the Royal New Zealand Air Force
Kate Spencer on behalf of The New Zealand High Commission
Colonel Benjamin Oakes of the United States Space Force
Squadron Leader Geoff Dixon of the Royal Air Force
Michael Comerford of the Royal British Legion
Phillip Crebbin of the Royal Air Forces Association
Sergeant Dan Price of the Harrogate Police Force
Dennis Richards OBE of Harrogate International Partnerships
In addition, a wreath was laid to honour Alfred Churchill Lockyer from Wellington, New Zealand. It was laid by Darren England of the Royal British Legion and Jean Everson (see note below).
The reading was given by Harrogate Grammar School student Sam Featherstone.
HIP representative Kate Spencer gave her address, which included a message from the Mayor Tory Whanau of Wellington, New Zealand.
The ceremony concluded with the National Anthems, with the New Zealand National Anthem being sung in both Māori and English.
Note: The wreath to honour Alfred Churchill Lockyer was laid by Darren England and Jean Everson who have worked to establish a memorial at Rimswell near Withernsea, close to the site of the air crash which took the lives of Pilot Officer Lockyer and others in his crew on 17 March 1945. It was that crew’s first flight since joining the squadron, and their plane is believed to have been the last Lancaster shot down by the enemy over the UK during the Second World War. Lockyer was 23 years old.
Harrogate is twinned with Wellington, New Zealand. We remember four young aviators from Wellington, members of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, assigned for their missions in World War II with RAF Bomber Command and serving in and around Yorkshire, who did not return home and now lie at rest in Harrogate.
They are Charles Agnew, Alfred Churchill Lockyer, Terence McKinley and John Matthew Stack.
We also remember another aviator from a twin town of Harrogate – William Howard Porritt from Barrie, Ontario, Canada – who also lies in Stonefall. A private wreath was laid on his grave by Alex Nuttall Mayor of Barrie.
The ceremony was arranged by New Zealand and British citizen Kate Spencer of Harrogate International Partnerships. HIP would like to thank all the participants and those who contributed towards the ceremony, including the following:
The Harrogate Band
Amelia McQuire, Harrogate Grammar School
North Yorkshire RAF and Sea Cadets
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
A New Zealand Garden within Valley Gardens, a public park in the centre of Harrogate, also remembers the servicemen buried at Stonefall. It was first opened in 1953 with plants brought from New Zealand, and was refurbished in 2010 and again in 2023 with the addition of a Pikorua sculpture, a bench funded by Wellington City Council, and a specimen shrub presented by the RNZAF. The refurbished garden was formally reopened on 22 April 2023.