It is 100 years ago that Gordonton’s cenotaph was unveilled on a rainy day, 16 October 1918. It was one of the first built in New Zealand to commemorate those from the local district who died in action and served in World War One.
A reporter from the Waikato Times said the day would long be remembered as a red-letter day in the history of Gordonton.
“…It is only right that the brave deeds of our soldiers should be llttingly commemorated, and Gordonton has established a lead in this direction which might well be followed by other districts.”
Number 8 Network runs the article in full:
16 October 1918
HANDSOME MEMORIAL OBELISK. UNVEILED AT GORDONTON.
Despite the unpropitious weather which prevailed yesterday there was a large gathering at Gordonton to take part in the unveiling of a memorial obelisk to perpetuate the memory of the brave lads who have gone to the front from that district.
People came from all over the district, and Hamilton was well represented. A number of returned soldiers were in attendance to do honour to their comrades. The school children, too, were in full force. Mr Morgan, chairman of the Soldiers’ Memorial Committee, presided, and among the representative people on the platform were: Messrs Whittakcr, secretary to the committee, R. F. Rollard, and J. A. Young, M’s’.P., Captain Bellamy, O.C. No. 4 Group, Archdeacon Cowie, C.F., Rev. R. Mackie, C.F., and Mr P. Haddock (secretary Waikato Returned Soldiers’ Association.) Apologies for unavoidable absence were read from the Minister for Defence, -Messrs G. Welch and A. E. -Manning, Privates H. Purdy and J. Hooth (Auckland). Trooper Fenton sounded the Reveille, after which the Hamilton Municipal Rand, under Randmaster Donovan, played the National Anthem.
The chairman said that the idea, when a Roll of Honour was first mooted, was to have a small roll in the public hall, but the response to the appeal had been so liberal that it was decided to erect the present handsome memorial. Practically every family in the district had contributed. He hoped the people, and especially the children, would always look upon the memorial as sacred. Mr J. McGregor referred to Britain’s fine history, and stated that their ancestors had laid a foundation upon which succeeding generations had built, until to-day their Empire was the greatest and noblest the world had ever seen. This had been brought about by pluck, grit and determination. The proud heritage which they had received must be passed on to those who followed. The men who had left the district to play their part in the great war were heroes every one.
Rev. R. Mackie was proud to be present, as representing the Presbyterian section of the community, to sympathise with them, and do honour to the soldiers who had left the district. Often people’s memories were short, and the settlers of the district had done well to erect a monument to stimulate the memory of those who would come after. The men had sacrificed much, and those who remained behind should do their utmost to be worthy of the sacrifice made.
Archdeacon Cowie esteemed it a privilege to be present at such a function. The Germans had gone to war with the desire for world domination and glory. They knew that Britain was unprepared, and thought she would never dream of going to war. That idea was utterly wrong. Britain cared for honour more than wealth, and went to war for an ideal. Everyone should make it his business to see that the soldier was treated as he really is—the saviour of his country. Mr J. A. Young, M.P., congratulated the district upon the handsome obelisk erected to the memory of the lads fighting for them all on the other side of the world, fighting that the freedom of the world should be assured. Every community should recognise the duty it owed to the men who were acting as a wall between the people’s freedom and the degradation and ruin which would follow German invasion. Those who remained behind should draw inspiration from the deeds of the soldiers and play their part faithfully. They should also recognise the duty they owed to the lads when they returned. To the children he would say, “keep the monument sacred.”
THE OBELISK UNVEILED.
Mr R. F. Bollard, M.P., said he was there with a feeling of regret and pride —regret at the need for assembling for such a purpose, and pride that the people of the district recognised their duty to the brave lads who had gone to take their part in the great struggle. He was proud, too, to see such a fitting memorial erected. He reminded those present that but for the boys who were fighting they would not be there living in peace, and they must pay honour to the boys for the great work done in the cause of humanity. They must do their duty. There were great problems to be solved after the war was over, and they must see that the boys were treated well when they came back.
Mr Bollard referred especially to the soldiers who had made the supreme sacrifice, and extended his sincere sympathy to the parents, especially the mothers. He knew many of them personally, and regretted their loss. One had gained the Military Medal. He hoped that soon the war would be over, and the men would oe home again. Mr Bollard then unveiled the monument.
Trooper Fenton sounded the “Last Post,” and the Municipal Band played “The Garland of Flowers,” while Mrs Richard Martin, sen., conducted by Archdeacon Cowie, placed a beautiful wreath at the foot of the column. Mrs Martin, who is 78 years of age, is the oldest resident of the district, having arrived 45 years ago, when the country was almost all standing bush and swamp. The scene was very impressive, and many were moved to tears as thsy thought of the noble sacrifice made by the gallant lads who had not hesitated to lay down their lives in the war of Right against Might.
Mr Whittaker, on behalf of the committee, warmly thanked all who had assisted in connection with the function, including the Band, the Farmers’ Auctioneering Company, Messrs Ewe:.. Dalbeth, Sharp, Ballard and Riddell, the committee, and last, but decidedly not least, the ladies.
Mr Whittaker himself worked hard to ensure the success of the gathering, and he and his assistants are to be heartily complimented upon the result achieved. Afternoon tea was served in the hall by the ladies, and was much enjoyed. The Band then rendered a number of well-played selections, and an impressive and successful function closed about 4 p.m.
The obelisk, which is placed on the roadside in front of the Public Hall, is a handsome column of grey granite, on a three-decked foundation, with railing of iron and concrete posts. It is a splendid piece of work, of which the people of Gordonton should be proud.
Upon one side of the obelisk are the names of the men who have made the supreme sacrifice, with the inscription, “In memory of our fallen heroes.”
The names of the heroic dead are:—Ser-geant-Major C. E. Simmons, Sergeant H. C. Welch, Privates A. W. Law, J. V. Law, J. Riddell, G, Welch, Mickey, G. Hall, G. Simmons, V. J. Scott and Vickers.
“For humanity,” is the tribute at the base. Upon other sides of the obelisk is the inscription, “Erected by the people of Gordonton, in honour of our heroes who participated in the great war, 1914-19—.”
The names of the men who have gone to the front from the district follow—viz.: .1. Law, A. J. Law, W. J. Law, A. W. Law, J. Riddell, W. Riddell, .las. Riddell, L. Howie, G. Dalbeth, W. Dalbeth, H. 0. Purdie, C. McDonald, T. R. Thomson, W. J. Thomson, A. M. Thomson, J. R. O’Hcarn, VV. C. O’Hcarn, G. H. Welch, H. G, Welch, R. Guthrie, R. A. Williamson, E. J. Williams, J. R. Sainsbury, P. Vickers, J. Scott, W. J. Srott, C. E. Smith, C. Hall, F. Catley, J. Hickey, H. Pitman, G. J. Slieard, H. Thorpe, B. Fordyce, E. Aylward, J. Feisst, I. Booth, G. Simmons, W. Peach, Amo Pcne, Paritawa Tewai.
Other men have left the district, and their names will be added as soon as possible. A wreath of laurel leaves—emblem of honour and victory—enriched the crown of the monument.
In laying the foundation stone a parchment was inserted containing the names of the subscribers and committee, with a request that if at any time it became necessary to remove the monument, it should be re-erected in a prominent place where it would be well cared for. Yesterday will long be remembered as a red-letter day in the history of Gordonton. The significance of the function cannot be over-estimated.
It is only right that the brave deeds of our soldiers should be llttingly commemorated, and Gordonton has established a lead in this direction which might well be followed by other districts.