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Memorial of a Soldier

Lest we forget

by Julie Halligan

The general feeling of the time was that it would all be over by Christmas. For four long years the people of Papakura waited for that end and when it came on Armistice Day 11th November 1918, the final tally of the roll of the dead for Papakura and Karaka stood at 32.

It was billed as The Great War and it was said it would never happen again as the walking wounded and survivors made their way home. For those whose sons had not returned, whose bodies laid in a foreign fi eld the loss was all the harder to bear for where did one go to mourn, where did one lay a wreath?

In Papakura the people of the town got to work industriously and throughout 1919 various meetings were held by the public and council whereby eventually it was decided that a monument be commissioned and erected on a municipal triangular plot of land along the Great South Road, originally the site for the Papakura Public Library and which had formerly housed the Town Board Offices as a memorial to the fallen of the Papakura and Karaka districts.

An invitation was issued to the residents of the district for the submission of monument designs and various fund raising activities were embarked upon to fund the endeavour. The Town Board paved the way legally for the site to be given over to the monument while a subscription and garden party events eventually raised seven hundred pounds for the monuments commission and erection. The Beautifying Society were given the job of clearing and improving the area in readiness for the installation and unveiling ceremony.

The job of sculpting the colossal monument was awarded to an English artisan, Mr William Henry Feldon, a former Oxfordshire man who had made his way across the world to New Zealand in 1910 after a very successful career as a sculptor and carver in the UK and the United States. Mr Feldon’s career had also been interrupted by the Great War and he served in the Auckland Mounted Rifles as Brigade-Major eventually ending his service in Otago as Adjutant 8th Southland District Attesting Officer.

With the ceasing of hostilities, he returned to his sculpting career and he was responsible for the Matakana Memorial, the Memorial Gates at Bombay Domain, the Arawa Tribe Memorial of Chief Rangitiki in Rotorua before he came to accept the Great War Memorial commission from the people of Papakura and Karaka. Mr Feldon, carving in Oamaru stone was ably assisted by a local youth, T S McFarland who in the eyes of Feldon, made a credible job, eventually.

The memorial is of a soldier in full battle dress standing at ease on a sandstone plinth atop a stepped base gazing into the far distance, at his feet a recumbent lion. This was originally used in Boer War memorials but by this era was very symbolic of empire.

The memorial, minus its lion, which arrived weeks later, was unveiled to the public by the then Governor General of the day, Viscount Admiral Jellicoe. Around 600 members of the public gathered on 5th June 1921 for the unveiling where 60 returned servicemen also formed a guard of honour under Major C R Spragg.

The 32 names of the Fallen were inscribed on the column and in 1955 another Roll of Honour was added, those who had perished in the next great war, World War Two.

In 1993 a plaque was also added to commemorate service in the theatres of Borneo, Malaysia, Korea and Vietnam.

Today the monument stands as it always has, silent, a reminder of where we have been and where we have yet to reach.

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elocal Digital Edition – April 2020 (#229)

elocal Digital Edition
April 2020 (#229)

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