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Christchurch Medic Remembers Great-Great Uncle on the Western Front

CPL Gribben in the New Zealand Defence Force Tri-Service Catafalque Guard
CPL Gribben in the New Zealand Defence Force Tri-Service Catafalque Guard

Two red poppies were laid in Belgium yesterday by Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) medic Corporal (CPL) Alice Gribben on the grave of her great-great uncle who died 100 years ago in the First World War.

Villa Maria College old-girl CPL Alice Gribben (nee Forbes) is a member of the Catafalque Guard in a contingent of twenty New Zealand Defence Force personnel who have travelled to Belgium and France. They are there to mark 100 years since the Anzac Day landings in Gallipoli, with commemorations on the Western Front.

The Western Front accounts for the majority of New Zealand casualties from The First World War. Those who died rest in cemeteries or are named on memorials to the missing in both France and Belgium.

Twenty-five-year-old CPL Gribben will have the chance to visit every New Zealand battlefield and memorial to the missing on the Western Front, as well as conducting formal Catafalque Guard duties during commemorations.

“I’m honoured to be representing New Zealand overseas on Anzac Day, and proud too given my family's personal connection with the First World War," says CPL Gribben.

CPL Gribben carried two poppies all the way from Christchurch to place on the graves of her great-great uncle, who is buried at New British Cemetery Grevillers, and his friend. Both were Kiwis who served and died in the First World War.

Charles Nicholls MackIntosh, a Lance Corporal in the Canterbury regiment of the New Zealand Army, was one of three of CPL Gribben’s great-great uncles who served in the war, but was the only one who did not return home.

At his grave she placed her poppy and read a poem written for him by his first school principal, which brought the rest of the contingent to tears.

"Words can't explain how it felt, I am so honoured to be one of only a few family members to visit him, and to do it at such an important time in history makes it even more special," says CPL Gribben.

The NZDF contingent will participate in several commemorations on the Western Front in the lead up to Anzac Day, including a Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate in Ieper on April 24, wreathlaying ceremonies at all New Zealand memorials in Belgium, and an Anzac Day Dawn Service with the Australian Defence Force at Buttes New British Cemetery, Polygon Wood.

ENDS

For further information please contact Defence Public Affairs on 021 487 980

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