|THE SOLDIERS MEMORIAL AT OTAHUHU
by Donna Nobilo
|On April 25th 1928, thirteen years after the landing at ANZAC in Turkey, a procession of Returned Soldiers, Territorials, Cadets, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, friendly societies and school children formed in the grounds of the Otahuhu School and then marched to the triangular reserve at the junction of Mangere and Great South Roads, Auckland. Led by the 3rd (Auckland) Mounted Rifles Band, the procession halted at the stone cross - entrance to the Holy Trinity Church – where a number of wreaths were laid.
The triangular reserve was already the home to a tall monument erected in the 1870’s to Colonel Marmaduke George Nixon M.H.R. who died of wounds received in the engagement at Rangiawhia in 1864. Also remembered on the monument were three corporals of the Colonial Defence Force who fell during the same encounter. However the triangle had recently undergone expansion and beautification to receive another monument, this time to the Soldiers of The Great War.
Seated on a platform at the Memorial unveiling were Their Excellencies, Governor-General Sir Charles Fergusson and Lady Alice Fergusson, the Mayor of Otahuhu Mr. J. Todd and Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Trevwith.
Newspaper cutting 1928: The bronze sculpture arrives in Otahuhu after its long trip from England.
Detail of the memorial. The bronze was commissioned, sculptured, and cast in England for local Otahuhu resident Alfred Trevwith to ensure that future generations would remember the sacrifice made by New Zealanders in the Great War.
| The Monument was unveiled by the Governor-General revealing a “fine statue of heroic size” representing a New Zealand Mounted Rifleman seated upon a horse which rears as though startled by shell-fire. The Mayor gave a short speech and explained how the statue came to be erected.
The statue was a gift from Mr. Alfred Trevwith, a resident of the borough for many years. He wished to make the donation in order that the memory of those who had made the supreme sacrifice might be perpetuated and that the people of this and future generations might be reminded of the hardships endured by the soldiers who fought in the Great War. The bronze statue was sculpted and cast in England, the soldier modeled on an Englishman. However the uniform of a member of the 3rd (Auckland) Mounted Rifles band, Mr. Ivan Kelly was sent over to England to be used as a pattern. Mr. Trevwith’s desire to be an anonymous donor was thwarted in England as someone there inadvertently made his name public. The statue arrived in New Zealand early January 1928 when there was some intervention from Mr. Trevwiths’ solicitors regarding the storage of the statue. They asked that the statue be immediately erected on its base as leaving it stored pending the unveiling would be detrimental to the figure.
| After unveiling and dedicating the memorial, Sir Charles Fergusson spoke of the significance of war memorials to all people. “They stood, he said, as reminders of the magnitude of those sacrifices by which victory had been bought, and of the responsibility which lay on each and every one to answer the call of duty, however hard it might be and whatever the cost. He was sure that not even those whose memories were the most poignant would wish him to strike a note of sorrow. He would rather speak of the imperishable glory that rested upon the men who fell, of their own people’s pride in them, of what men they were, of what deeds they did and what a wonderful epic, in spite of it’s bitterness, was The Great War. There is one thing that we are perhaps a little apt to forget. They showed us how it is possible for men and women like ourselves – not heroes, but commonplace people – to rise to heights of sacrifice which had never been known to be possible. They raised to a higher plane the standard of life of every one of us. The inspiration they have given will last and will be handed down to generations yet unborn”.
Sir Charles ended by quoting at length the noble epitaph of Pericles upon the Athenian dead, and a stanza from a hymn which the assemblage afterwards sang.
“There were His servants: in His steps they trod.
Following through death the martyred Son of God
Victor He rose: victorious too shall ride
They who have drunk His cup of sacrifice”.
The ceremony concluded with the benediction and the “Last Post” sounded by bugles of the Boy Scouts. His Excellency then inspected a guard of honour formed by the Returned Soldiers, nearly one hundred in number, shaking hands with each man and expressing to them collectively his pleasure at meeting again old comrades of the Great War.
With thanks to the Otahuhu Historical Society