New Zealand sailor begins journey home


Kaumātua, elected tribal elders of the Māori community, and a New Zealand Defence Force chaplain lead the service at Weston Mill

Kaumātua, elected tribal elders of the Māori community, and a New Zealand Defence Force chaplain lead the service at Weston Mill

A Royal New Zealand Navy sailor, who died and was buried in Plymouth in 1956, is to be repatriated.

On Monday, a Māori ceremony was held at the grave of Leading Engineering Mechanic William Goodwin at Weston Mill Cemetery.

Kaumātua, elected tribal elders of the Māori community, and a New Zealand Defence Force chaplain led a blessing ceremony, with traditional singing, or waiata, and prayers.

The repatriation of LM[E] Goodwin is part of a project called Te Auraki (The Return), under which the NZDF is bringing home personnel and dependants buried overseas after January 1955.

Leading Engineering Mechanic William Goodwin

Leading Engineering Mechanic William Goodwin

The ceremony and repatriation marked the end of a long period of cooperation between the Council and the NZDF.

Councillor Sally Haydon, Cabinet member for Customer Focus and Community Safety, said: “It is a real honour for Council staff to have been involved in such a culturally important event.

“Having looked after Mr Goodwin in Plymouth for over 60 years, we’re humbled to see him return to the country of his birth.”

In 1956, LM[E] Goodwin was serving as a Leading Engineering Mechanic aboard HMNZS Bellona.

During a period on shore in Plymouth, LM[E] Goodwin took a knock to the head playing rugby and sadly succumbed to his injuries. He was 25 years-old and left behind a pregnant widow.

New Zealand Defence Force rules at the time meant that the families of servicemen who died abroad had to pay for the remains of their loved ones to be repatriated.

Sadly, LM[E] Goodwin’s were not in a position to do so and so he was buried in Weston Mill Cemetery.

Following the ceremony, the remains of LM[E] Goodwin will be exhumed and once officially identified, Royal New Zealand Navy personnel will conduct a continuous vigil around his casket until the remains are handed over to his family back home in New Zealand.

This follows the repatriation of three NZDF personnel from Fiji and American Samoa in May, and 27 personnel and one dependant from Malaysia and Singapore in August.