(Wairarapa Times-Age)

27 March 1999






Memories in stone

(Featherston's memorial)IN less than a month thousands of Wairarapa people will gather at cenotaphs throughout the district to honour the memory of those who died in wars which have afflicted mankind this century. Each will know why they are there, many will be remembering a particular family member, they will know the Anzac story. But few will know the history behind the obelisk at which they have gathered to pay homage to the old soldiers. As chief reporter DON FARMER found out while researching this article each of the towns’ war memorials has its own story to tell.


(ABOVE: FEATHERSTONíS cenotaph made from river stones. ó Picture by LYNDA FERINGA)

A Kiwi digger looks back as he is about to evacuate Gallipoli. His face has that bony quality, with high cheekbones, which Department of Internal Affairs historian Jock Phillips, an expert on war memorials, calls the Edmund Hillary look.

His clothes are creased, his buttons are undone, his socks are dishevelled, his bootlaces untied …

In his hand he holds his army hat, his rifle is slung on his back with bayonet fixed.

Real test

(Mastertons statue)

(ABOVE: MASTERTON’S “untidy soldier” stands guard over the ancient dead. — Picture by LYNDA FERINGA)

This soldier who failed the spit and polish exam, but passed the real test of battle, looks out through his bronzed eyes over Masterton, ironically in the direction of the War Memorial Stadium, from where he has stood for nearly 80 years on top of 60 tonnes of concrete and granite in Queen Elizabeth Park.

What is not recorded on the cenotaph is that this “untidy soldier”, as the statue became known, is modelled on a real Gallipoli veteran – Joseph Lynch – brother of the sculptor Frank Lynch, taken from a photograph actually taken at Gallipoli.

The original casting stands in Devonport, on Auckland’s North Shore, as that district’s war memorial.

Masterton secured the second casting after a committee searching for a suitable memorial settled on the bronze figure in 1921. Frank Lynch had been born in Australia but moved with his family to Auckland from where he enlisted in 1914.

He served in Egypt, Gallipoli and in France and it is said that whenever there was clay about he would model the heads of his comrades-in-arms.
After the war he set up a studio in Ponsonby with Joseph, who was also an artist, and who later became a cartoonist on a Melbourne newspaper.


The statue was deliberately designed to do away with the image of a stiff-upper-lipped soldier and was meant to portray a digger in trench kit about to evacuate Gallipoli.

“As he leaves his unfinished job, he takes a last look back at the heights and doffs his hat to the memory of his dead cobbers.”

The Masterton memorial, which includes 25 tonnes of granite, was freighted down from Auckland and cost, in total, £1375.

Featherston’s hugely impressive stone dome memorial has a hidden significance. Constructed largely of river stones, it was intended to remind people that one of the first tasks of recruits who trained at Featherston military camp before departing for overseas was to pick up stones to help clear the bouldery Tauherenikau site.

Many of these soldiers, drawn from all over New Zealand to train at Featherston, died in battle.


Likewise in Carterton, the war memorial in the square has its own special story.

The top of the column has been abruptly broken off, looking to all intents and purposes as if it has been damaged and left unmended. In fact the sheared top is deliberate and is a special way of commemorating the young soldiers whose lives were cut short by war.

The Carterton memorial came about through a bit of harmless skulduggery by William Howard-Booth, who was the town’s mayor in the years immediately after the Armistice.


Mr Howard-Booth had set his heart on developing a rough piece of garden, which was to become the square, into a memorial to the fallen soldiers but found it hard work to convince the townspeople to put their hands in their pockets and make his dream a reality.

Years after his mayoralty had ended in 1923 Mr Howard-Booth confessed as to how he had got the money up. He said he had at first appealed for money and when this failed to get much of a response he struck on the idea of writing letters to the editor of the newspaper, under many noms-de-plume, alternatively praising the mayor and castigating him for putting forward the idea.

This culminated in a public meeting being held in the town hall and many people went along just to watch the sparks fly. The upshot was that there was no fight but once the people were ensnared Mr Howard-Booth was able to appeal to them in person for cash, and he got it.


Greytown’s war memorial is on a much larger scale, being Soldiers Memorial Park, with its impressive stand of mature native trees and taking in the memorial baths and playing fields.

In 1919, when the great carnage of World War I was very fresh in people’s minds, Dan O’Connor decided to sell O’Connors Bush on Kuratawhiti Street to a sawmiller.

The town fathers moved swiftly and instead secured it as a memorial, then began to organise dances, concerts, paddy markets and even a baby carnival to raise money for memorial gates and improvements.

Two stone pillars with granite scrolls and the names of the fallen soldiers from World War I in gold lettering form part of the main wrought iron gateway to the park. A World War II memorial, of much plainer construction, is situated just in front of the public baths nearby.

(Service at Tinui)

(ABOVE: AN Anzac service at Tinui, at the memorial near the craft shop, one of several war memorials in the district. — Picture by PETE COLVIN)


Martinborough is flush with memorials to the town’s war dead.

In the square in the middle of town there is a Boer War memorial, a gateway memorial for World War I soldiers along similar lines to the one in Greytown and another set of memorial gates for World War II dead.
Apart from the war memorials in the main Wairarapa towns there are many others situated in rural areas and schoolyards.

Among the more unusual is a bridge at Kaiparoro, near Mt Bruce, built as an Anzac remembrance and an aluminium cross atop of Mount Maunsell at Tinui.

The help of historian Jock Phillips who made research notes available is acknowledged in the preparation of this article.



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