Friday, 27 April 2018

War Memorials of Rotorua Pt. 1


Boer War and WW1

Boer War 1893-1902.

Photo courtesy of  Kete Rotorua
The first ever War Memorial was in 1904, this being the Fred Wylie Memorial and still stands today in the Government Gardens.  Sculpted and installed by Parkinson Bros. Monumental Masons of Auckland.  Unveiled by Mr W. H. Herries, at 9:00am on the 24th February 1904

Fred Wylie was the son of a prominent Rotorua family.
A volunteer in the NZ Rough Riders, 4th Contingent.

“He was killed at Klipfontein on 26th May 1901. He will be remembered for his gallant exploit at Ventersdorp on the 23rd May, when single handed he captured a 15-pound gun, after shooting two Boers and capturing another”.  NZH 7 June 1901.


World War One :
In 1919 a War Memorial Committee was formed and by February of 1920 a suggestion was “made by Local Bodies to erect a monument in the Town Square to fallen soldiers from this district, from England and Australia who died of war wounds here in Rotorua”. NZH 10 Feb 1920. For the site settled on see later article 6th July 1924

In 1920 the War Memorial Committee members were the Mayor C.H. Clinkard, Mr F. White (secretary) and Mr E. La Trobe Hill (architect).

 “A war memorial, taking the form of a cenotaph, has been decided upon by the local memorial committee. It was further decided that the whole of the present designs submitted be rejected and that fresh tenders be called for; monuments to be of granite and of the cenotaph design.” NZH 10 Aug 1923.

At a meeting of the Rotorua War Memorial Committee, held last night, the design and tender of Messrs’  Parkinson & Co. Monumental Masons of Auckland were accepted… at a cost of £1100.” NZH 5 Sept 1923.

“Rotorua War Memorial” Auckland Star 21 March 1924.
The excavating work in connection with the erection of the Rotorua War Memorial, commenced yesterday in the Government Gardens, under the supervision of Mr Willcox… the sections of the memorial, which have now arrived, are being assembled under the personal supervision of Mr Parkinson.”

The World War 1 memorial in the Government Gardens was unveiled on Sunday July 6th 1924 at 3.00pm. By Major-General Melville, G.O.C., of New Zealand Forces.  It was to have been unveiled on the ANZAC Day that year, but was postponed due to the Railway strike.  See the full story on Papers Past in the AUCKLAND STAR, VOLUME LV, ISSUE 156, 3 JULY 1924.
[In 1922, during the sharp post-war economic downturn, the government cut state servants' wages by up to 10%. After exhausting other means of protest ASRS members voted to strike, against Mack's advice, in April 1924. 'Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants certificate', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/amalgamated-society-railway-servants-poster, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 3-May-2016]

Photo courtesy of Kete Rotorua
Arawa Soldiers Memorial 

'Maori War Memorial: Ohinemutu Proposal' Excerpt from New Zealand Herald 7th April 1919.

"The proposal is to erect a pedestal or low obelisk with seven sides, the number seven representing the badge of the Maori Battalion. Six of the sides, it was suggested, should be of red, white and blue granite, to symbolise the flag under which the Maoris, like other soldiers of the British Empire fought. The seventh side would be of either stone or metal and would bear an inscription.... It was also suggested that if possible, the Prince of Wales should be requested to unveil the memorial during his approaching visit to Rotorua..." 

Photo courtesy of  Kete Rotorua
"Capt. W. H. Feldon of Auckland was commissioned for the sculpture which will form a prominent portion of the design" Bay of Plenty Times 25 Nov 1919.

The Prince of Wales, did indeed visit Rotorua on the 8th May 1920, his majesty did not unveil the memorial as it was not finished. He did however present medals to returned soldiers at Arawa Park.

The following is an excerpt of the article published in the New Zealand Herald on 26 February 1927
"A lofty octagon, it stands in a commanding position to the north of the Bath House and will be unveiled by the Duke at noon on Monday... the striking thing about the memorial is the wealth and variety of it's symbolism...at the top of the monument is a life size figure of the King in full regal robes"

Due to an unknown vandal in 1936, the "life size figure of a Maori chief, holding a taiaha, which stood at the foot of the column...was knocked off it's pedestal and broken into several pieces" in the Press 10 November 1936. 

Restoration of this significant memorial to the Arawa soldiers is taking place now and will be finished in time for the Armistice Remembrance Service in November 2018.

With thanks to the Don Stafford Collection, Papers Past and Rotorua Daily Post for the information above. Photographs courtesy of Kete Rotorua.