Earthquake damage to Awatere War Memorial prompts Anzac Day service shift

Reverend Dawn Daunauda with Marlborough Returned and Services Association president Ross Cook outside the Awatere ...
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

Reverend Dawn Daunauda with Marlborough Returned and Services Association president Ross Cook outside the Awatere Memorial Hall.

Ever since the first stones of the Awatere War Memorial were laid in 1926, Seddon residents have gathered there to mark Anzac Day.

But not this year: the earthquake last November caused serious damage to the foundations of the cenotaph, which stands on a rise overlooking the town.

It has been closed since, so in a break from tradition the Anzac Day service on Tuesday will be held at the Awatere Memorial Hall instead.

The Awatere War Memorial suffered extensive cracking to its foundations as a result of the earthquake.
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

The Awatere War Memorial suffered extensive cracking to its foundations as a result of the earthquake.

Reverend Dawn Daunauda said Anzac services were always well attended in Seddon, and she expected up to 500 people this year.

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​"It's a coming together and we need that at the moment, we're doing it a lot in various ways, but I think this Anzac Day is going to be extra special," she said.

The memorial gate at the Awatere War Memorial, in Seddon, was damaged in the earthquake.
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

The memorial gate at the Awatere War Memorial, in Seddon, was damaged in the earthquake.

"The cenotaph is damaged just like most houses and many of our businesses, but we keep going. We'll get through this."

Marlborough Returned and Services Association president Ross Cook said the Awatere district lost more servicemen per capita than anywhere else in New Zealand during World War I and WWII.

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Cracks in the stairs leading up to the Awatere War Memorial caused by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake last November.
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

Cracks in the stairs leading up to the Awatere War Memorial caused by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake last November.

The scale of the loss was one of the reasons he thought Anzac Day services were so important to the Seddon community, and why they were so well attended.

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"It's our duty to remember these men and women. And also the people that were left behind, can you imagine the trauma and grief within the community when the first casualties came back from both WWI and WWII." Cook said.

The RSA president could only remember one other occasion when the Awatere Anzac Memorial Service had been held at the hall instead of the cenotaph, due to rain.

The memorial was repaired after sustaining damage in the 2013 earthquake. Cook said the damage was worse this time around, but he was confident it would be repaired again.

"This last one has done monumental damage to the foundations, but once again the community and the council will come to the fore to make sure it stands tall," he said.

For those that wanted to march, Cook said they would be assembling at Seddon School at 6am before heading to the Awatere Memorial Hall for the beginning of the service at 6.30am.

 - The Marlborough Express

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