ANZAC Day | 25th April 2020

Child at the Monument.

ANZAC Day at Matakohe will be very different this year. Traditionally we host the Paparoa RSA ANZAC Day service here at The Kauri Museum. The day begins with a fall-in at 10am and a parade through the Matakohe Cemetery to raise the flag and the playing of the last post. Children then lay wreaths at the Matakohe Memorial Monument and a further wreath is laid at the Matakohe War Memorial Hall. This is followed by a service in the Volunteers Hall of the Museum. More than 250 people attend and listen to presentations around a different theme each year. The theme commemorates the people of Otamatea, and the roles they played here and in service during past conflicts. At the end of the commemoration we break for a cup of tea and some vittles, always catered brilliantly by the Friends of The Kauri Museum, and people talk, taking time to view the ANZAC displays in the Museum.

The Volunteers Hall will be empty this year.
The ANZAC display was not installed before we went into alert level 4 lockdown, so the faces of our people will not line the walls as they have done every year - until now. That does not mean we have forgotten them. We will just be doing things differently, and as a nation Kiwis are quite good at that.

One key part of the annual ANZAC commemorations here in Matakohe is the wreath laying at the Memorial Monument.
The Monument originally sat alongside a German Howitzer gun at the beginning of Church Road, Matakohe. Once this triangle of land was part of the main road to Dargaville from the State Highway 1 and would have been seen by all those that drove by. The significance of this and similar monuments erected throughout the country were well understood by those whose lives were directly impacted by the sacrifices’ they represent. Does that knowledge still resonate with those who see our Memorial Monument today? Certainly ANZAC Day each year reignites these memories for our community.

The Kauri Museum collection contains a series of photographs that document the process of the building of the Matakohe Memorial Monument in 1921.
The images show the quarrying of the stone by volunteers on the Te Kowhai (Northern Wairoa River side of the Hukatere peninsula) land of Eleanor Coates, farmed by the Honourable Joseph Gordon Coates (then Minister of Public Works) in partnership with his brother, Rodney. Mr William Smith stands next to his anvil and forge, on hand to ensure that all the drill bits were sharp for the splitting the rock. The workers take a well-earned break to enjoy a picnic lunch on site. The split stone is manoeuvred onto a barge to be towed to Ranganui before being lifted onto railway trucks and taken to Bouskill monumental masons in Auckland. The Monument was completed and returned to Matakohe for assembly before the unveiling on 3 January 1922.

With the memory of ‘the war to end all wars‘ still fresh, and continuing to impact on the lives of everyone the unveiling drew a big crowd.
It was important to acknowledge the fallen of our community and remember the great service they had given their country. The Auckland Star recorded the event on 4 January 1922. The article talked of those who quarried the stone, from where it was sourced and the Monument’s location in the village. It also recorded those who spoke and paraded, and finally that it was ‘a gathering unique in the history of the settlement’. The 20 soldiers whose names are listed on the Monument are still remembered in the ANZAC displays at The Kauri Museum. Almost 100 years later the Matakohe Memorial Monument still resonates with the sacrifice of our people on battlefields at the other side of the world. They are long remembered here in Matakohe. Next time you visit The Kauri Museum take time to stop at our Monument, and remember. Lest We Forget.

Photos: The images above are taken by two local photographers, George Gallie (who was on the Monument Committee) and Percy Stevens who had his own photography business. Stevens’ images have the notation at the base.

Search the NZ War Memorial Online Cenotaph records https://www.aucklandmuseum.com/war-memorial/online-cenotaph