WWI cen­tre­piece marks Feather­ston mil­i­tary camp

The Dominion Post - - News - Piers Fuller piers.fuller@stuff.co.nz

Rem­i­nis­cent of a pro­ces­sion of sol­diers march­ing off to war, a new $600,000 sculp­ture in Feather­ston is a pow­er­ful re­minder of the town’s im­por­tant role in his­tory.

The Paul Dib­ble sculp­ture, de­signed to re­mem­ber New Zealand’s largest ever mil­i­tary camp, has just been un­wrapped and is now on dis­play in the town’s cen­tre.

Dib­ble said the con­cept rep­re­sents the sol­diers’ march­ing from the camp through Feather­ston and up and over the Re­mu­taka Ranges be­fore leav­ing for the front. ‘‘The slanted pil­lars give the im­pres­sion of a line of for­ward move­ment. Many of the sol­diers were young men from farm­ing back­grounds, they are de­picted in re­lief in shorts and rolled up sleeves.’’

Although the art­work is part of the wider na­tional WW100 project, its cre­ators are adamant it is not a memo­rial to war ca­su­al­ties, but a com­mem­o­ra­tion of their town’s his­toric role.

Feather­ston Camp Sculp­ture Trust chair­man and driv­ing force be­hind the project, the late Dr Bernard Jervis, said be­fore he died that they did not want a mon­u­ment to war.

‘‘Nor sol­dier­ing, nor the fallen. Rather, we are look­ing for a con­cept to present a pos­i­tive im­age of a small town do­ing its bit in a time of global cri­sis,’’ Jervis said. ‘‘The camp brought out the best of most of those who passed through it, and in­volved a pro­vin­cial town in a na­tional con­tri­bu­tion.’’

A large ceno­taph fur­ther down the road was the town’s memo­rial to its fallen sol­diers.

To­day – the day be­fore Armistice Day – a ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mony was planned to in­clude a march from the camp’s orig­i­nal site 3km east of town to the sculp­ture in­stal­la­tion on Fitzherbert St.

As­so­ciate min­is­ter of arts and cul­ture and her­itage Grant Robert­son, South Wairarapa Mayor Viv Napier, Palmer­ston North Mayor Grant Smith and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the army, will at­tend.

Napier’s grand­fa­ther and two great un­cles trained at the camp and she will help cut the rib­bon. ‘‘I think it will be some­thing that will be recog­nised lo­cally, re­gion­ally, na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally be­cause it will link peo­ple to the camp, which was such an im­por­tant part of our his­tory. A lot of peo­ple in New Zealand don’t know about it.’’

Trust sec­re­tary trea­surer Jean McDowall has spent the past four years bring­ing the money to­gether to fi­nance the project. The largest do­na­tion was $350,000 from New Zealand Lot­ter­ies.

Feather­ston res­i­dent Tim Wat­son stopped to check out the sculp­ture yes­ter­day just af­ter the bub­ble wrap was re­moved. ‘‘I think it’s neat. You can see the sol­diers in shorts and uni­form and it makes you think of them go­ing past right here and some of them would not be com­ing back.’’

Feather­ston Mil­i­tary Train­ing Camp was built by the Pub­lic Works Depart­ment in 1915 af­ter the out­break of World War I and was the train­ing base for 60,000 sol­diers.

PIERS FULLER/STUFF

The Feather­ston Camp Sculp­ture by Paul Dib­ble oc­cu­pies a prom­i­nent spot in the mid­dle of town.

A close-up of the Wairarapa town’s new art­work.

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