Grove salutes sol­diers’ sac­ri­fice

It is not a mat­ter of glo­ri­fy­ing war – it is a mat­ter of re­mem­ber­ing th­ese men and their sac­ri­fices which are a part of our her­itage and his­tory.

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By DAVID HULME

Don Water­son was 25 when he left New Zealand, bound for Europe and a lit­tle-known penin­sula – Gal­lipoli – which would go down in his­tory as the birth­place of the An­zacs.

He served ‘‘king and coun­try’’ through the Gal­lipoli cam­paign, into France where he was pro­moted to staff sergeant and was awarded the Dis­tin­guished Con­duct Medal. He was one of the ‘‘for­tu­nate ones’’ who re­turned home in 1919 at the com­ple­tion of the war.

His ser­vice to his coun­try and that of 132 other Mata­mata men, in­clud­ing 39 who paid the ul­ti­mate price in lay­ing down their lives for our free­dom, will be re­mem­bered with the estab­lish­ment of the World War One Me­mo­rial Grove in Pe­ria Rd.

The Me­mo­rial Grove is a Ro­tary Mata­mata project to mark this month the 100th an­niver­sary of the land­ings at Gal­lipoli. The site will have 100 kahikatea trees planted along­side the con­crete path­way along with plaques to com­mem­o­rate some of the ma­jor bat­tles of the war.

Water­son’s son, Graeme, pres­i­dent of the Mata­mata RSA, was de­lighted to be in­volved with the Ro­tary project.

‘‘It is not a mat­ter of glo­ri­fy­ing war – it is a mat­ter of re­mem­ber­ing th­ese men and their sac­ri­fices which are a part of our her­itage and his­tory,’’ he said.

Like most of his gen­er­a­tion, Don Water­son did not talk of his wartime ex­pe­ri­ences but the Me­mo­rial Grove will in some small part en­sure that the sac­ri­fices they made are not merely a foot­note in his­tory.

Ro­tary Mata­mata direc­tor Don Stan­ley, whose own fa­ther Tom also served dur­ing World War I, said that, over the years, walk­ways had been es­tab­lished in the town and, for some time, the ser­vice or­gan­i­sa­tion had ‘‘toyed’’ with the idea of link­ing th­ese ar­eas to en­cir­cle Mata­mata.

‘‘In con­junc­tion with coun­cil, we have se­cured the site on Pe­ria Rd for the Me­mo­rial Grove and this could be linked with other walk­ways in the fu­ture if some­thing went ahead,’’ Stan­ley said.

‘‘The Me­mo­rial Grove will have a cen­tral fo­cus gar­den in the mid­dle of the trees, and will be an area for gen­er­a­tions to fol­low to re­mem­ber the sac­ri­fices of those young pi­o­neer men from our town that did their bit for their coun­try.’’

When the project started, it was es­ti­mated to cost about $35,000 but, thanks to the gen­er­ous sup­port of J Swap Con­trac­tors, the Piarere Young Farm­ers, Wil­son Sand, the Mata­mata Art So­ci­ety and some pri­vate in­di­vid­ual con­trib­u­tors, that has been dramatically re­duced.

Ro­tary was also able to suc­cess­fully ap­ply for a $5000 grant to­wards the project, and in­di­vid­ual cash dona­tions of more than $4000 have been re­ceived so far, while most of the work is be­ing un­der­taken on a vol­un­tary ba­sis by Ro­tar­i­ans.

‘‘I am re­ally blown away and grate­ful from the sup­port of our lo­cal com­mu­nity,’’ Stan­ley said.

‘‘ When we first launched this project last year, we had one per­son come for­ward with a $2500 do­na­tion and more have fol­lowed.

‘‘As time goes by, there are fewer fam­i­lies with di­rect links to th­ese men that went to war but there are still many in the dis­trict who have strong mem­o­ries of them re­turn­ing home and then serv­ing their town in other ways.

‘‘ The An­zac spirit has re­ceived a real re­vival in re­cent years and the younger gen­er­a­tions are now ex­tremely proud of what their fore­fa­thers did,’’ Stan­ley said.

‘‘ If any­one would like to do­nate to this project, we would wel­come their in­put.’’

Photo: TERESA HAT­TAN

With help from sev­eral busi­nesses, and the back­ing of Mata­mata’s Public Re­la­tions As­so­ci­a­tion, flags will now fly in the town­ship through­out April to com­mem­o­rate An­zac Day.

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