We have already written a post about the New Zealand Wars Memorial in the church – the beautiful West Window – which rises above the central aisle. It was placed in the church in memory of two men, Captain George Buck and Lieutenant Harry Hastings, who died during the battle of Te Ngutu o te Manu in Taranaki on 7 September 1868.
The memorial window was funded by the comrades of the two soldiers. Money was collected in a Veterans Memorial Fund, and a meeting at Thorndon Barracks in 1869 decided that the money would be spent on the window. Originally it seems the money was collected to memoralise all of those who died in the battle; it is not clear why only these two men were named on the memorial plate in the end. The window was installed in the church in 1870. The memorial plate below the window reads:
This window is erected by the members of the Wellington Veteran Corps No. 1 Wellington Rifles, the Porirua and Patea Rifle Companies, in memory of Captain George Buck and Lieut. Henry Charles Holland Hastings late of the Wellington Veteran Corps who fell while gallantly serving with the Colonial Forces in the attack on Ngutu-o-te-manu on 7th September 1868.
What we didn’t realise, when we wrote that post, was the highly unusual nature of this memorial window, and the special place it holds in terms of the history of all war memorials in New Zealand, and especially those who died in the New Zealand Wars.
Jock Phillips has just reissued his comprehensive history of war memorials in this country, To the Memory: New Zealand War Memorials (2016), in which he analyses the social history behind the form, style and placement of all war memorials in New Zealand, and tracks the significant changes in them and the politics that surrounded them over the decades.
His book has a chapter about the New Zealand Wars, and documents the surprisingly few memorials that were erected by communities, or even by fellow soldiers. Jock observes that, by contrast, there were many memorials erected to the Civil War in the United States, which occurred at exactly the same time.
The first of the New Zealand Wars memorials he has found, which Jock calls New Zealand’s first genuine war memorial, was the controversial memorial at Moutoa Gardens in Wanganui, erected in 1865, and the second was an obelisk at Te Henui Cemetery in New Plymouth, erected in 1867. In addition, during the war, there were grave markings erected above where soldiers were buried, and a small number of plaques placed in churches.
Only a very few others followed, because after the wars ended, as Jock puts it, ‘amnesia’ set in about the wars, and famous battle sites such as Raupekapeka and Orakau remained unmarked and forgotten, and even, in the case of the most famous battle site of all, Gate Pa, bulldozed. Veterans of the wars were left to advocate for the preservation of even the headstones above the graves of their comrades. It was not until after the turn of the twentieth century, when the South African War made memorialising soldiers more fashionable, that a flurry of new memorials to the New Zealand Wars were built.
Therefore, the fact that a memorial fund was raised by troops of the Wellington Veteran Corps, and the Porirua and Patea Rifle Companies, directly after the battle, and that they then decided to use the funds to pay for the memorial window at Old St Paul’s, makes the window very special, and one of the very first war memorials erected in New Zealand.
Photo: Paul Scott, used with permission, copyright retained by Paul. http://paulscottinfo.ipage.com/nz/cathedrals/wellington/oldstpauls/tn.html