Memorial now in its forever home
The Te Rehunga Memorial was finally welcomed to its new home at Ruahine School at a rededication service on Monday.
The memorial was originally dedicated on Anzac Day 1948 within the grounds of Te Rehunga’s St Alban’s Church.
On it were named eight soldiers from the district who had fallen in the two world wars.
Last year the church was sold and became a private residence.
After canvassing the local district there was total support to move the memorial to Ruahine School.
With the help of builder Hamish Illsley and volunteers the shift was carried out and the rededication was to be held on Anzac Day but Covid-19 put a stop to that.
Ruahine School principal Sarah McCord said the community had been waiting a long time.
“It is so good to see so many people here today to celebrate Armistice Day and to remember the selfless acts of those who are honoured on the memorial.
“What a privilege it is for us to be the forever home for this memorial.”
She thanked the Dannevirke RSA for trusting the school with this taonga.
Tararua mayor Tracey Collis read a quote from GK Chesterton: “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
“Te Rehunga stood behind these men and remember what they gave to us. It is our privilege to say thank you and to remember them every day.
“The loss of eight men from this district would – have been felt deeply. The memorial reminds us of those who suffered and will continue to.”
Representing the Defence Force was former Ruahine School pupil Colonel Paul Curry who congratulated the team responsible for moving the memorial
“War is a matter of national survival but we will not dwell on war as it is a terrible thing.”
Rather Curry recounted the lives of two of the men named on the memorial.
“Arthur Charles George Gibbs was a self-employed contractor whose parents lived in the district. On January 17, 1916 at the age of 21 he joined the army.”
On September 23 he arrived in France to fight on the Somme.
“Arthur was reported missing 10 days later. A court of inquiry found he died during his first action as a soldier. He was buried in a cemetery in France.”
Keith Vernon Hansen was a dairy farmer who joined the 24th Battalion.
“He was killed on March 6, 1944 in the battle of Casino, he was one of four killed that day and was buried at Casino [Cassino] cemetery.
“Both men came from similar backgrounds to ours but our families had lived peaceful lives. When we lose someone we can farewell them and we can visit them, but, Arthur and Keith lie in foreign fields where they died. Their families were not able to farewell them and it is not easy for them to visit their graves.
“That is why it’s important this memorial is here so they can be visited and remembered by all who pass by.
“All the men named on this memorial are now in your care. It only takes a glance or a thought or an event such as this to keep their memories alive.”
With rain meaning the rededication was held in the school hall rather that in front of the memorial, the unveiling was unable to be held.
The blessing was carried out by RSA chaplain Ron Ashford and was followed by the laying of wreaths.
Locals Eric and Jill Ross laid a wreath in memory of Eric’s uncle Noble Gardiner who served in World War II. He was killed in the north of England when the Wellington Bomber he was carrying out an instrument check on crashed.
Eric’s father George Ross served in World War II as well and was featured on a photo board alongside others from the Kiritaki/Maharahara area who also served.
RSA committee member Bruce Charmley was responsible for fundraising to meet the cost of moving the memorial and this was well supported by the community.
“In 1948 on April 25 when the memorial was first dedicated, that too was rained on and 70-odd years later here we are again.”
He thanked the children for their performances and for all who had contributed to the project in some way.
RSA president Roly Ellis thanked Charmley for all his hard work in bringing the memorial to where it should be.
Photo captions –
Colonel Paul Curry
The Te Rehunga memorial on its new site Ruahine School.
Eric Ross, Michelle and Abby Ross-Veale honoured Eric’s uncle Noble Gardiner whose name is on the memorial.