Express & Star

Special cross put on Cannock graves to mark Anzac Day

A tribute was paid to 73 soldiers buried on Cannock Chase to mark Anzac Day – with a special cross placed on each of the graves of servicemen by a relative of one of the men buried there.


Geoff McMillan, who lives in Waikanae in New Zealand, made the trip to the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Brocton to pay tribute to his great uncle and comrades who trained on Cannock Chase.

The 73 men died in an influenza epidemic which devastated the camp in 1918. His great uncle Charles McMillan served as a private with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade but died on November 7, 1918, aged 25 – around a month after arriving in the UK.

The soldiers are remembered every year on April 25, Anzac Day, which commemorates all the soldiers from Australia and New Zealand who served and died in military operations.

Private McMillan

The date refers to the start of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign, in which many of them took part.

Almost 188,000 Allied troops were left dead, missing or wounded during the eight-month operation. In recent years there has been a project to place Dolores Crosses on the graves of all 30,000 New Zealand military personnel buried on foreign soil.

Great-grandfather-of-one Mr McMillan was asked to bring the tributes, handwoven from New Zealand flax, by Dolores Ho, the archivist at the National Army Museum in New Zealand.

He placed the crosses in front of each of the graves on Friday but on Sunday he also placed a wreath at the Cross of Sacrifice.

Around 500 people gathered on Cannock Chase to pay their respects during Sunday's ceremony.

The 73-year-old retired insurance executive said: "Before my father, Tom McMillan died in 1997, he said it would be nice for someone to go to Staffordshire and visit my great uncle's grave. It has been very emotional."

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