A Dunedin woman has praised the “kindness” of a Star reader who placed a poppy next to the name of a fallen soldier on a war memorial in Belgium.
Sandra Lawn was visiting her daughter in Dunedin in April when she read the story of Edna Cogger’s uncle, Private James Cooney, who died at Passchendaele during World War 1.
Ms Lawn, of Nelson, had planned a four-month cycle trip across Europe and took the article with her when she ventured overseas, visiting Tyne Cot Cemetery, in Belgium, where the Oamaru soldier is buried.
She found Pte Cooney’s name on a memorial wall at the cemetery for New Zealand soldiers who died during World War 1, and placed a poppy beside it.
Ms Lawn then emailed some photographs through to The Star, which were passed on to Dunedin woman Mrs Cogger.
Mrs Cogger said she was “very surprised and delighted” that Ms Lawn had gone to such personal effort.
“[It] was extremely kind.”
Mrs Cogger had no immediate plans to visit Europe but Ms Lawn’s email had encouraged her to see her uncle’s burial place.
“If ever I was in Europe again, I would certainly try and get there.”
Placing an Anzac poppy besides Pte Cooney’s name was “a great honour”, Ms Lawn said.
Ms Lawn said she had no personal connection to those who fought at Passchendaele.
She became interested in those who “lost their lives saving and liberating others in Europe’s two major wars” following an earlier visit to the Netherlands.
Her father had lived as a child in the Netherlands during the German occupation in World War 2.
He emigrated to New Zealand after the war.
Ms Lawn said Mrs Cogger’s story stood out because Mrs Cogger might not have the chance to visit her uncle’s final resting place.
Ms Lawn hoped to meet Mrs Cogger after returning to New Zealand.
Mrs Cogger said she thought the least she could do was to meet and thank Ms Lawn personally for her kindness.
Ms Lawn said Tyne Cot Cemetery was very peaceful and well looked after.
Moving between the many Anzac graves where she randomly placed poppies, she said she was “moved to tears” as she reflected on the impact of the battle.
“Such a waste of young life. It’s unbelievable that such a large group of men came from so far way to fight for freedom, so sad for so many to die in misery, as it surely was.”