A forgotten veteran of World War One, who was laid to rest in an unmarked grave, has had his service to the country honoured.
Private Samuel Chase was buried in Nelson in 1941 and lay without acknowledgement for more than 77 years.
But when fellow military man Ian Martyn realised Chase did not have a headstone in Wakapuaka Cemetery, he took it upon himself to rectify the situation.
About 20 dignitaries gathered at the cemetery on Friday afternoon to unveil Chase’s headstone which reads ‘Great War Veteran.’
Born in Wairoa in 1873, Chase volunteered for the war effort in 1915.
A member of the 2nd Canterbury Infantry Battalion, he had his left arm amputated at the shoulder after catching a stray piece of shrapnel in his elbow during the third Battle of the Somme.
The 43-year-old was discharged due to not being fit for active service, and returned home seriously damaged both physically and mentally.
“He tried to control and suppress the horrors he had been exposed to but Sam’s scars of war ran deep and continued to haunt him,” Ian says.
The only pathway deemed appropriate for a soldier with Sam’s afflictions was committal.
Chase was shipped to the Ngawhatu Asylum in Nelson in the early 1930s.
It was there, alone and without family or whanau, that Samuel Chase died in 1941. He was buried in the Catholic Section of the Wakapuaka Cemetery with two other asylum inmates – unmarked and anonymous.
“While researching a WW1 service medal awarded to Sam that had been sent to me to find a descendant for, I was most surprised to find that Sam Chase had been buried here in Nelson. I went to visit his grave and was deeply saddened to discover that this returned New Zealand soldier, a man tormented by the memories of his service for King and Country, had been laid to rest miles from his family and Hawke’s Bay home.”
Ian says, for many soldiers like Sam, the end did not come quickly.
“Not by bomb, bullet, bayonet, bugs or drowned in a sea of mud, Sam’s sacrifice was ‘slow burning’, one of recurrent nightmares, confusion, sedation, ECT, abuse, neglect, denial of freedom, of family and friends or any hope for a future.”
Ian says it is his belief no returned service person should ever end their lives, irrespective of circumstances, without the State honouring their service and sacrifice by defining their last resting place.
“I was moved to rectify this travesty on behalf of Private Chase.”
Ian says, after being buried without honour, fanfare, funeral or bugle calls, Sam will now always be remembered.