News | 28 April 2023
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Harrogate, our sister city in North Yorkshire, honours Royal New Zealand airmen

Not many people are aware that Harrogate is Wellington's sister city in North Yorkshire, where four Wellingtonians are buried for their service in World War ll.

Pou whenua in a garden
Pou whenua in the Harrogate New Zealand Garden.

"My heart went out to those mothers who hugged their sons, waved them farewell, and told them how brave they were, knowing they might never see them back home again," said Kate Moira Spencer, of Harrogate International Partnerships. 

Following an initiative set up by Kate, each Anzac Day the 23 New Zealand soldiers buried in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, are now honoured by a wreath-laying ceremony. Stationed in and around the area during WWII, these young airmen, including four Wellingtonians, died on active duty during WWII.

This year the airmen, buried at Stonefall Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, are being commemorated by the refurbishment of the New Zealand garden set in Harrogate Valley Gardens.

Bench at Harrogate.
New bench in the Harrogate New Zealand garden.

Harrogate is Wellington’s only sister city in the United Kingdom. The relationship was established in 1953 when Wellington City Council donated plants for Harrogate Borough Council’s Valley Gardens. This prompted the establishment of a New Zealand Garden, which officially opened in 1954.

In 1954, Harrogate Borough Council presented Wellington with a gold mace created by a local jeweller. The mace is still used at Council meetings and on ceremonial occasions. 

In 2010, kaumātua Sam Jackson travelled to Harrogate to bless the newly restored New Zealand Garden. He travelled with Dame June Temuranga Jackson, and Councillor Ray Ahipene-Mercer. A pou whenua (ceremonial carved post) was additionally gifted by Wellington City and iwi partner Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust. 

Ceremonial Mace.

"Thanks to a kind donation by Wellington City Council, a commemorative wooden bench, made by a local Yorkshire craftsman, will be placed in the newly refurbished New Zealand Garden during a ceremony on Saturday 22nd April," said Kate. 

"The placement of the bench will mark 70 years of our sister city relationship and will also honour the RNZAF airmen buried near by. Harrogate and the Friends of the Valley Gardens are delighted and honoured to receive the gift."

The Wellingtonian airmen buried in Harrogate:

Born: 1 January 1919
Died: 22 November 1944
Aged: 25 years 
Son of Robert Agnew and Margaret Agnew (nee Monahan) Emigrated to New Zealand from Fife, Scotland. Husband of Cecelia Joyce Agnew Pilot Officer Navigator Service No: 42882


Born: 2nd October 1921
Died: Saturday 17 March 1945
Aged: 23 years
Son of John Adams Lockyer and Gertrude Lockyer 
Flying Officer Pilot
Service No: 42813

Born: 23rd April 1922
Died: 14 November 1943
Aged: 21 years
Son of Denis Alphonsus McKinley and Mildred Agnes McKinley
Flying Officer Pilot
Service No: 402544
Awarded: Distinguished Flying Cross

Born: 1917
Died: 19 October 1944
Aged: 27 years
Son of John Charles Edward Stack and Ada Ann Stack who emigrated from England
Flight Sergeant Air Bomber
Service No: 4213651