Tag Archives: National War Memorial Park

Pukeahu. National War Memorial Park

On a Sunday afternoon in late August that hinted at the beginning of a warm spring ( that hasn’t really happened sadly) we journeyed into Wellington to visit Pukeahu ( Puke Ahu, meaning “sacred hill”)  National War Memorial Park.  This project was completed in time for commemorations of World War 1 and required a good deal of altered roading and central city reconfiguration.

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According to the background printed material “It is a place for all New Zealanders and visitors to reflect on and remember the contribution of the many New Zealanders who lost their lives and served in our external military conflicts over the years.  It is also a place to consider how the experience of war, military conflict and peacekeeping has shaped our ideals and sense of national identity.”

Nearby the old Mt Cook ( the old European name for this area) Police Barracks building has been restored and links to another violent event in New Zealand, dating back to 1881 when Government forces invaded Parihaka and Maori prisoners were held in a prison on Mt Cook.  There is a memorial to these prisoners adjacent to the old Dominion Museum building but which I missed seeing on this visit.

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The pedestrian only park area is large and open to the elements.  On the day we visited the elements were relatively calm and warm.  In Wellington’s windy climate it will be a very exposed and cold spot despite the plantings of native trees.

These tall, red stone columns dominate the northern section of the park area and represent links between Australia and New Zealand and the history of shared service.  Unfortunately a very disturbed young man was behaving very erratically towards us and other visitors so we moved away quickly.  We missed reading the various panels and viewing the artworks from the Balarinji Studio in Sydney and the those made by Jacob Manu Scott acknowledging tikanga Maori.

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This statue drew my attention.  She is Hinerangi, a kuia in bronze standing ready to karanga.  The area on which she stands was the garden that local Maori cultivated before the European settlers arrived.

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Overlooking the park area is the Carillon, which opened in 1932 and is 50 metres tall.  74 bells are regularly rung and I have happy memories of listening to the Carillon play as we visited the old Dominion Museum with our parents on a weekend or holiday.  The bells have names linking to WW1 and WW11 and four of the large bells bear the names: Grace, Hope, Remembrance and Peace.  A Lamp of Remembrance burns constantly on top of the tower.

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Near the doorway to the beautiful, sombre, Hall of Memories is this bronze sculpture of “The Man with the Donkey” which was inspired by the actions of NZ stretcher bearer Richard Henderson and his donkey “Murphy” at Gallipoli in 1915.  Paul Walshe’s sculpture pays tribute to all medical personnel, stretcher bearers and ambulance drivers who served in wartimes.  My paternal Grandfather was in the medical corps in Egypt in WW1 so this sculpture touches my family.

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We visited the Hall of Memories, built in 1964 and stood quietly with other visitors in this respectful and reflective space that was lit by afternoon sun through the beautiful west facing stained glass windows. Each person with their own memories, thoughts and feelings.
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The current New Zealand flag is draped over the tomb of the Unknown Warrior in the sanctuary here and reminds us poignantly that a flag requires dignity and solemnity in such circumstances.


No place for a Brand

The Government of my country have decided that we need a new flag.  Apparently the new flag, if the country votes to change it, will be a “Brand” that can be used as a marketing tool around the globe.

Here in the Hall of Memories at the National War Memorial in Wellington is no place for a Brand.

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A Commemoration for Harry……..and many others

From time to time as we visit Wellington city we have observed the extensive construction works near the Carillon that will ultimately form a National War Memorial Park.

Part of this work has included a tunnel so that the busy road can run beneath the park. Suddenly, to my radar at least, this tunnel was nearing completion and was to be named The Arras Tunnel. The name was chosen to commemorate the New Zealand Engineers Tunnelling Company and its significant contribution to the Allied efforts on the Western Front in WW1.

NZ Engineers Tunnelling Company at Avodale Race Course 1915

NZ Engineers Tunnelling Company at Avodale Race Course 1915

My Great Grandfather’s oldest brother was one of the men who enlisted as a Sapper in this company. Harry Morrison (registered at birth as: Thomas Henry Morrison) was born in Thames, New Zealand in 1866. His parents John and Louisa Jane Morrison, nee Jaggard had arrived as new immigrants from England earlier in 1866.
I have data that indicates that John Morrison was one of many men who purchased gold mining licences at the time of the Thames Gold field strike in 1867.

At the time of his attestation (6th October 1915) Harry recorded his age as 39 years of age but in fact he was 10 years older. His occupation was “Bushman” but I would have to suspect that he would have spent time with his father mining for gold as a young boy and teenager.
I have a copy of his WW1 record and it shows that he was with the 1st reinforcements to the Tunnelling Company and after brief training in Avondale, Auckland he was transported with hundreds of other men to England and from there to France and the Western Front in March 1916.
For greater detail about the work Sapper Harry (NZETC Army# 4/1571) and his colleagues were engaged in click here.

It is no surprise to read in Harry’s service record that by November 1917 he was admitted to No.2 NZ General Hospital in Walton, England. He was suffering from defective vision and acute delusional insanity.
Prior to this hospital admission Harry had spent a number of months on “fatigues” due to a range of unpleasant symptoms that are recorded by the Doctor at Walton. These symptoms included: “weak heart sounds, shortness of breath on service exertion, feels the cold very much, rheumatism in his knees and hips joints. Arteries somewhat thickened. And his real age recorded as 52 years.”
Harry was deemed physically unfit to continue to serve and was shipped back to Auckland on the “Willochia” from Liverpool on 1st Feb 1918. His official discharge was granted on 30th April 1918.

It is interesting that the Army described him as Senile but also thought he was still able to work, although with far less capacity than he had previously. His pension, if it was granted, was to be reviewed after 3 months. His condition was deemed to be due to “age” but active service had aggravated it.

It makes sad reading with so little information given as to the rigours and conditions that these men endured. Other accounts from personal diaries and official accounts can assist with filling some of the gaps. Many of Harry’s symptoms, for a man who was deemed very fit in 1915 could easily be attributed to gas poisoning and shell shock, aggravated by horrendous living conditions and abysmal diet.

Harry died in Auckland in November 1918 of Influenza. He was a casualty of the Flu epidemic that killed so many people around the world. He is buried in Waikumete Cemetery, Auckland in the RSA section and a proud headstone acknowledging his contribution has been erected there.
Harry never married and we know of no direct descendants. I have searched in vain for a photo of Harry.
It appears that the NZ Engineers Tunnelling Company was largely unrecognised until efforts began a few years ago in preparation for the 100th anniversary of WW1. The vast cave systems in Arras, France bear testament to their many skills and accomplishments during that ghastly war.
In addition to websites there is also a Facebook page for this Company.
Last weekend the Arras Tunnel was officially opened and the public was able to walk through it before it was opened to traffic. The walls of the Tunnel are decorated with large Red Poppies. Unfortunately circumstances prevented me attending this occasion. You may like to follow this link for more information on this.