Author(s): Paul O'Connor
The Glorious Dead is a short, fascinating, well researched and most interesting history of the Banks Peninsula War Memorial
War memorials, throughout our nation, are an accepted part of our landscape. Sometimes, though, many of us pass by them, perhaps without taking a pause to see what they signify. But there is an awakening, which is now well evidenced every Anzac Day when the crowds, largely swelled by children, congregate to pay their respects to our war dead and to acknowledge the part all those men and women played from that particular district, in building this proud nation to what it is today. Chris Maclean and Jock Phillips, in writing The Sorrow & the Pride, quite rightly claimed that war memorials deserve closer attention and that sentiments carved in stone preserve past attitudes to war and death. They also claimed that most, if not all of these memorials, were deliberately erected after much care and often with controversy. Paul O’Connor has done an excellent job in highlighting these very sentiments in this book. It has its genesis at the end of the Anglo-Boer War when the then ‘movers and shakers’ of Akaroa were determined a war memorial must be established in the district to commemorate the call to the Colours of seven of Banks Peninsula’s bravest. That was in 1902. Twenty-two years later, the foundation stone was finally laid. and a further two years later, in 1924, the project was finally completed. But, as O’Connor has revealed, the 22 years in the making was a painstaking process. Costs continued to escalate. Motivation waxed and waned. Even cement for the project ran out, although a quick call to the then prime minister solved that problem. And the problems continued. O’Connor reveals that some ‘loose cannons’ in the district appeared very keen to commemorate the district’s war dead from World War 2 with the construction of a women’s toilet. Really? I am, however, of the opinion that this history just needed a little bit more. Whilst I appreciate that O’Connor would have been given specific instructions as to what the Banks Peninsula War Memorial Society was requiring, it is not the bricks and mortar – or more precisely the bluestone from Hoon Hay and the whitestone from Mt Somers - that make war memorials; it is the names of The Glorious Dead inscribed on these memorials. It is Staff Nurse Margaret Rogers, Pve Frederick Alan Westenra and the other 101 men who gave their lives during World War 1, the seven who gave their lives during the Anglo-Boer War, and the 28 who paid the ultimate sacrifice during World War 2 that make this memorial what it is. We will remember them. Review: Col (Rtd) Ray Seymour
Paul O'Connor is Head of History at Burnside High School in Christchurch. He has published an extensive number of educational resources.