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Media release —

The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at the National War Memorial is a Commonwealth war grave - a fact that many may not be aware of. These war graves commemorate members of the Armed Forces who died during World War One or Two.

This week the head of the organisation that looks after all Commonwealth War Graves around the world visited New Zealand. Claire Horton CBE, the Director General of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), arrived in Wellington on Monday to raise awareness of the work the Commission does and to meet with officials, Defence personnel, veterans associations, local iwi, volunteers and groups involved with the care of war graves.

"Together with Taranaki whānui we welcomed the Director General at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, with a ceremony which included a whakatau and a wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior," says Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage chief executive Leauanae Laulu Mac Leauanae.

"This Tomb of the Unknown Warrior is symbolic of all New Zealanders who did not make the journey home from the World Wars. Their graves are being looked after overseas by the Commission.

"We were able to have a conversation with the Director General about the 3,500 war graves located in Aotearoa, which are under the care of our Ministry. We shared information about our common concerns of managing aging heritage, environmental practices and the impact of climate change," says Leauanae.

The CWGC Director General toured a number of sites while in New Zealand, including cemeteries, the NZ Naval Memorial and the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

"I was honoured to be able to lay a tribute at the tomb of the Unknown Warrior at the National War Memorial," says CWGC Director General Claire Horton.

"The work that the Commission does, through agencies such as the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, respects the sacrifice of the 1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth who died in the two World Wars and makes sure they are remembered.

"This tour was a great opportunity to see the work that is being done firsthand, and to share information about how that work is carried out," says Horton.

Horton departed New Zealand on Thursday.