Poppies for days . . . New Zealand Remembrance Army member Barry Gamble wants to give soldiers' graves a long lasting sign of recognition. PHOTO: RUBY HEYWARD

Honouring service personnel is an everyday practice for Barry Gamble.

The former soldier spends about two hours a day working on various New Zealand Remembrance Army projects.

One of his many projects is making poppies to go on memorial grave headstones.

Made out of clay, the poppies are glued beside the soldier’s name.

Entering a cemetery could be like “going into a maze”, Mr Gamble said.

But a poppy gave a “flash of colour”, making it easier to recognise servicemen and women.

Honouring those who had served was greatly important to him.

“Once you have been a soldier you can relate .. even as a peace time soldier.”

The poppies were a way to pay tribute to those who made sacrifices in long lasting way.

“Everyone goes to the [Anzac] parade, but [they] don’t go to the cemetery.”

Ceramic poppies had a longer life than plastic poppies. A soft glue was used to attach them to the headstones, without causing damage.

Making the poppies was very much a group effort, Mr Gamble said.

Using a custom stamp, Mr Gamble made lots of 30, before taking them to Pottery on Tyne where they were put through the bisque and glaze kilns.

Pottery on Tyne did it free of charge and also provided the clay.

About 200 poppies had already been made, and about 60 more were at Pottery on Tyne, but Mr Gamble was not done yet. He wanted to make up to 500 more poppies.

Alongside three other Oamaru volunteers, Mr Gamble also cleans memorial graves or graves known to belong to service personnel but not marked as such.

The group of New Zealand Remembrance Army members worked across 11 different cemeteries in the Waitaki district to clean about 100 graves, and had about 100 more to do.

Before they could touch the graves, permission was needed from the soldier’s next of kin.

This could be a difficult task, as many soldier’s family connections were lost over time, or they had no living family.

Another issue was the engraving of incorrect names, making the process of tracking family down near impossible at times.

They often placed advertisements online in search of next of kin or for people who had known ties to buried soldiers.

“If you have a loved one in the cemetery – let us know.”

Since retiring as a recreation facility officer, Mr Gamble had made grave restoration and honouring soldiers his main focus.