Ngatimoti war memorial in the Motueka Valley.
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We are very grateful to Anne McFadgen for supplying the following information and list of names.
We heard the church bell begin to toll and went home as fast as we could. As we expected, so we heard; war with Germany had been declared. Hector, my brother, and my father were tolling the bell, our way of letting the countryside know the dreaded news. There were no telephones in private houses then.
Margaret (Daisy) Brereton remembers the day that World War I came to the Motueka Valley. (From St James Church, Ngatimoti: One Hundred Years of Witness 1884-1984)
In June 1920 a Ladies’ Committee was formed by Mrs C.B. Brereton expressly to organise the building of a war memorial.
Several options were considered, but the consensus was for an obelisk made of Takaka marble, to be erected at the St James Anglican Church.
A fundraising target of £ 200 was suggested, and raised by means of soliciting subscriptions to the proposed monument from residents of the Ngatimoti/Orinoco Valley area.
A Nelson monumental mason, Mr Simpson, was contracted to undertake the building of the memorial, and 2 public meetings were held so that subscribers to the project could provide their input as to design and wording.
Their efforts were rewarded when, on Anzac Day, 1921, the Memorial was officially unveiled by the Rt. Rev. William Sadlier, Bishop of Nelson, in front of a crowd of 600 or 700, including the Mayors of Motueka and Nelson, Mr Hudson, M.P. for the district, returned servicemen and local residents.
At the same time a brass tablet was placed in the church with the names of the men killed, and a photograph of this tablet was presented to the Orinoco School.
It was the second war memorial to be erected in New Zealand.
The first was built in Kaitaia in 1916, and is worth checking out for its remarkable inscription. http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/node/407
The land in front of the St James Church, where the Memorial is sited, was gifted by a local farmer, Mr Walter Guy. Two of his grandsons, Hector and Walter Guy, were war casualties – their names are among those inscribed on the Memorial, as is that of their cousin, Francis Strachan.
The chairman of the Ladies’ Committee, Margaret (Daisy) Brereton, nee Guy, was the sister of Hector and Walter Jnr. Another of her brothers, Arthur, also went off to war, but fortunately survived to return home.
The setting in front of the church with the Mt Arthur Range in the background is spectacular.
At the time of the Murchison earthquake of 1929 the Memorial was toppled and broken into many pieces. Ongoing tremors lasting for several months delayed repairs, but eventually it was sent back to Nelson to be mended by Mr Simpson.
Anzac Day parades brought many servicemen and women and local residents together at the Memorial over the years, joined since the 1970s by the Motueka Brass Band.
Despite the shutdown of the Ngatimoti RSA sub-branch due to declining numbers, an annual Anzac Day service and laying of wreaths continues, with large numbers of local people in attendance.
Mr A.C. Strachan was responsible for erecting the low pipe fence, complete with small gates, around the Memorial and doubtless he had help from other men.
His only son, Francis (Frank), was among the war dead.
Alex Strachan’s sister, Elizabeth, married John Guy, son of Walter Snr., and was the mother of his nephews Walter and Hector Guy, also lost to the Great War.
Inside, on either side of the gates, are a pair of World War 1 trophies – German Minenwerfer trench mortars given by the Defence Department at the request of Lt. Col. Cyprian Brereton, the valley’s highest ranking military officer and husband of Committee Chairman, Daisy Brereton.
In more recent years a chain fence with pipe posts was erected by members of the Ngatimoti RSA sub-branch, the Waimea County Council donating the chain.
The fence encloses a grassed area which was initially maintained by the RSA. In more recent years this task has been taken over by the group Friends of St James Church.
The Tasman District Council (originally the Waimea County Council) makes a grant towards maintenance.
Large gates to the Memorial enclosure have memorial plaques to each side.
A canvass around the Orinoco Valley was undertaken by the Orinoco School committee for the plaques on the Memorial gates to the Orinoco School. They were dedicated in 1955 by Canon Samuel Corney, and were moved to their present site when, in 1965, the Orinoco School consolidated with Ngatimoti.
With the War Memorial standing as it does at the junction of the road turning into the Orinoco Valley, this is a fitting place to have the plaques “enshrined”.
The plaques read:
Left hand side
‘These gates were donated by the ex-pupils and residents of Orinoco in loving memory of those who fell overseas’
Right hand side
‘In appreciation of those men and women from this valley who served in the Armed Forces.’
When the Great War first broke out in 1914, men from the Motueka Valley were quick to join up. Fourteen young men from Ngatimoti boarded the RMS Athenic in Wellington on 15 October, 1914, and others soon followed.
Of those first fourteen who left Ngatimoti for the war, eleven were killed in action or died of wounds, one died of sickness and only two lived to see New Zealand again, and those two between them received seven wounds.
(From the St James’ minute book – entry by C.B. Brereton.)
This was a small, close-knit rural community, whose focus was the church.
Families were linked by common interests and by marriage. The example of the Guy family is typical of the degree to which Motueka Valley people of the time were interconnected.
The loss of the young men listed below would have represented a devastating blow to the people of this area, but the continued strength of community spirit was shown in the way that they all rallied to the support of the memorial project – a project of great personal significance for those families whose boys’ graves were so far from home.
The war memorial reminds me particularly of Willie Ham, who used to work with Dad before the war. He was the first New Zealander to be killed in World War I - killed in an engagement on the Suez Canal when the Turks tried to seize possession of the Canal in 1915. I remember, too, Vida and Douglas Strachan crying at school when news came through of their cousins, Walter and Hector Guy and Frank Strachan being killed. We felt that we ought to be crying too, but somehow the tears wouldn’t come.
From The River, Stump and Raspberry Garden: Ngatimoti as I Remember, by C.B. (Pat) Beatson
Thanks to Denise McQuarrie, to Andrew Guy for family history details, and to Kath Beatson for information and the use of material from her book, The River Flows On: Ngatimoti through Flood and Fortune by Kath Beatson and Helen Whelan 2nd ed. Published 2003 by Buddens Bookshop, Motueka..
See also St James Church, Ngatimoti: One Hundred Years of Witness 1884-1984 held by the Motueka Public Library.
List of Dead inscribed on Memorial
You can find more information about the men listed here on the Auckland Museum's Cenotaph database.