Monday, June 24, 2013

Thames (NZ): Shortand Cemetery Fire 1943

There is nothing more disappointing to a family researcher than finding where their ancestors are buried, only to find that no sign of a headstone exists. One often asks why at least there is not a wooden cross to mark the spot.  We often think of the normal decays of time being the answer.
This is often the case at Shortland  Cemetery, Thames - where storms have been known t destroy graves, through fallen trees and land slips.  In 1943 though it appears that fire played a part in the total destruction of hundreds of graves.
Thames Star 19/3/1943
(Source: Hauraki Herald Newspaper archive)
The fire was described as being in the south-eastern boundary of the cemetery and headed north to the top of the cemetery - in are area we today would probably call the back of the cemetery.  so here could be the answer why many graves are without headstones.

Regardless of the cause of headstone destruction, many remain in a poor state and thanks must go to the volunteer/s over the years who have admirably tried to keep fallen headstones semi-intact and in the right location. The Treasury at Thames is undertaking a project to photograph all remaining headstones, so that at least a photo will remain of those left standing.
Aerial of Shortland Cemetery, Thames
The South Eastern boundary being the portion to the far lower-right
Photo courtesy of TCDC Intramaps