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Fallen Commonwealth soldiers honoured at Brockenhurst Anzac service

SOLDIERS from Commonwealth countries who died in a Brockenhurst military hospital during the First World War were honoured at the village's annual Anzac service.

Wreaths were laid on Sunday by dignitaries, including Shannon Austin – who represented the office of the New Zealand High Commissioner – and others on behalf of the New Zealand and Australian Defence Forces, Brockenhurst Parish Council and the Royal British Legion.

AVM Andrew Roberts delivered the Exhortation
AVM Andrew Roberts delivered the Exhortation

The service was led by Brockenhurst vicar the Rev. Simon Newham, and the Exhortation read by Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Roberts, RAF (retd), who is president of the village's Royal British Legion branch.

The organisation arranged the event which was a notable as this year is the 100th anniversary of the local group.

The New Zealand bell, given to St Nicholas' Church by the country after the First World War, tolled 94 times for each grave in the war cemetery.

Shannon Austin, from the New Zealand High Commission, laid the first wreath
Shannon Austin, from the New Zealand High Commission, laid the first wreath

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, numbers at the Sunday afternoon service were restricted to 50, with children's organisations gathering in the morning to lay wreaths in tribute.

Capt. Mike Matthew. RN. Chairman of the Brockenhurst Royal British Legion branch, said: “Hundreds of thousands of soldiers came from New Zealand, Australia and other commonwealth countries to fight in the First World War. Sadly many did not make it home.

"Here in Brockenhurst the wounded were treated, and despite the care and devotion of hospital staff, many died and are buried here. This service, as every year, reminds our community of their sacrifice; and those in other parts of the world, especially their relatives, that more than a century later their sons are not forgotten and we will remember them.”

The annual service of remembrance and commemoration is held on the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) Day as it is the national day of remembrance in those countries.

Thousands of New Zealand, Indian and other nations' soldiers were treated for their wounds in Brockenhurst during the First World War, the village having been chosen to host hospitals because of its clear air and good transport links.

As well as a large hospital built at Tile Barn, local hotels and halls were turned over to treatment of the wounded.

Not all survived, and the St Nicholas churchyard has a dedicated war cemetery to honour those who died.

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