While we now expect to see memorials in every town, before World War I they were much less widespread. There had been memorials constructed before this time, such as for the Boer War, where losses numbered in the hundreds, far less than the thousands of the following two wars. This meant there wasn’t the need for somewhere families and friends could go to mourn.
The Petone War Memorial is currently situated at Memorial Park in Petone. However, the memorial was originally located at the Buick Street entrance to the Recreation Grounds. It was decided to locate it there because it was “…a prominent opening site, and one which, each Saturday afternoon, attracted a large gathering, but also was the local rugby ground” (The history of ANZAC Day in Petone, Gerald Davidson). It was also chosen because it meant that the soldier on top of the memorial was looking out towards the harbour where the soldiers had left from. In 1966, it was moved to its current location in the Garden of Remembrance, which was established in 1960 as a memorial to the soldiers who died during World War II.
This memorial commemorates the places New Zealand fought during both World Wars, as well as local soldiers who died. Unlike many other New Zealand war memorials, the soldiers’ ranks are also included. This was uncommon as it was believed that all sacrifice was equal, irrespective of rank.
The memorial, again unlike the majority, has a statue of a soldier on top. It was made from Coromandel granite, although the soldier itself was made in Italy. This was fairly common practice as it was thought that foreign artists would create more artistic memorials. In fact, the government issued a memorandum stating that memorials should be artistic, not utilitarian. This was in contrast to World War II memorials that were far more likely to be utilitarian.
The memorial was funded through public donations, a variety of public events such as performances and choirs, and (unsuccessful) attempts were also made to secure a subsidy from the government.
In 1994 controversy arose when it was suggested that the memorial flagpole at the Petone Railway Station be moved to Memorial Park, to sit alongside the cenotaph. This was hotly disputed by residents, and the plan was eventually flagged.
For more information, see the following resources:
Chris Maclean and Jock Phillips, The sorrow and the pride: New Zealand war memorial
Gerald Davidson, The history of ANZAC Day in Petone
Jock Phillips, To the memory: New Zealand’s War Memorials
Sherril McNabb, Till the day breaks: World War I Memorials in Petone