RSA cen­ten­nial celebrations

The Tribune (NZ) - - NEWS - RICHARD MAYS

Men were still fight­ing and dy­ing on the West­ern Front when the first An­zac Day in 1916 com­mem­o­rated those killed at Gal­lipoli. Es­tab­lished as a day of mourn­ing and som­bre remembrance, An­zac Day be­came known over the decades for its ‘‘sec­u­lar sa­cred­ness’’.

The im­pact that World War I had on the soldiers, and their fam­i­lies back home was un­prece­dented, re­flected in a 1917 edi­to­rial in the Manawatu Even­ing Stan­dard which poignantly com­mented on ‘‘the num­ber of men com­ing home in­jured – or not at all’’.

Palmer­ston North was one of the first RSA’s es­tab­lished in the coun­try, and is hold­ing its cen­te­nary next week on May 13 and 14. Satur­day 14 is pa­rade day with vet­er­ans, Air Train­ing Corps and Sea Cadets, and vin­tage mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles tak­ing part.

Pa­rade or­gan­iser Lieu­tenant Com­man­der RNZNR David Leese says the pa­rade will muster out­side the court­house on Main St, be­fore march­ing at 2pm to a short ceno­taph ser­vice in The Square.

It then pro­ceeds to Ge­orge St for pa­rade dis­miss at Cafe Cuba which oc­cu­pies the Cuba St frontage of the orig­i­nal 1917 Soldiers Club.

The his­toric build­ing opened on De­cem­ber 5, 1917 and re­mained the clu­b­rooms for the Re­turned and Ser­vices Club un­til De­cem­ber 17, 1966 when it moved to 200 Broad­way Ave.

RSA mem­ber­ship was broad­ened in 1982 to in­clude as­so­ciate mem­bers and spouses. Put into re­ceiver­ship in 2012, it was re-es­tab­lished in July 2015 at the Dis­tinc­tion Ho­tel, just a block away from its orig­i­nal home.

The RSA’s Joe Hol­lan­der says the ac­tual date for the found­ing of the Palmer­ston North or­gan­i­sa­tion was May 9, 1916.

‘‘There was hardly a fam­ily in New Zealand then that didn’t have a mem­ber in uni­form.’’

The Satur­day 14 oc­ca­sion will also be recog­nised by a din­ner in the even­ing.

Cur­rent RSA mem­ber­ship Joe says is around 250 ‘‘though un­for­tu­nately, we’ve lost a few of our older mem­bers’’.

The RSA is also co­or­di­nat­ing with the lo­cal her­itage ad­vi­sory group to es­tab­lish a mil­i­tary her­itage precinct that would in­cor­po­rate sites such as the former Soldiers Club and the Maori Bat­tal­ion Hall on the cor­ner of Cuba and Pitt St.


Taken in 1969, the former RSA Soldiers Club was built for the Manawatu Pa­tri­otic So­ci­ety and com­pleted in 1917. Used by the RSA un­til 1966, the well pre­served build­ing con­tains many of the orig­i­nal de­sign fea­tures in­clud­ing cast iron col­umns along the ve­ran­dah.

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