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.
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.’’
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.