3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment

A Father Still Grieving For Son Lost In Falklands

Manawatu Evening Standard

25 April 2002

A former Palmerston North Boys' High student killed in the Falklands War is to be honoured by the re-enactment of an ancient battle tradition.

Retired Pohangina farmer Major John Absolon will contribute a stone for a cairn to be erected at the Pangbourne Naval College in Berkshire, England, this year. In a tradition begun by ancient Celtic warriors, the cairn will commemorate those soldiers killed during the battle for the Falkland Islands in 1982.

In history, cairns were erected by soldiers on their way into battle. Those soldiers who survived would take their stones away with them. The stones left unclaimed formed a tribute to the dead.

Major Absolon's son Richard, a sniper with a British paratroop regiment, was killed in action on the Falklands in June 1982. He was 18.

Major Absolon, himself a veteran of 23 years in the British Army, attended Anzac Day services in Palmerston North today. He said it would be a time in which memories of his son were foremost in his mind.

"There's an old saying that, in peace, sons bury their fathers, and in war, fathers bury their sons. I can tell you which is the hardest, because I have done both."

With the exception of the parents of Private Leonard Manning, killed in action in East Timor, Major Absolon believes he has the sad distinction of being the only father in New Zealand on Anzac Day to mourn a son killed in action.

Richard is buried with his regiment at Aldershot, in England. About 250 British servicemen died in the Falklands War.

The Absolons came to New Zealand in 1972 and farmed at Marton. Following a family tradition, Richard returned to Britain to join the army in 1980.

Major Absolon has yet to select a stone, but when he does, it will be blessed at St Mary's Church in New Plymouth on June 16, a ceremony timed to coincide with a blessing of the site where the cairn will stand at Pangbourne.

Anyone who wishes to help Major Absolon deliver the stone can leave donations to the Richard Absolon Memorial Fund at any branch of WestpacTrust.