A battered Union Jack once travelled to Gallipoli with our brave Waikato soldiers, but yesterday it hung solemnly on a wall in the centre of Hamilton, the centrepiece of a ceremony paying tribute to an unsung hero of Hamilton.
Sapper Horace Moore-Jones was a soldier, war artist and heroic figure who lived and died in Hamilton but was largely under-recognised until yesterday when tribute was paid with a plaque and street name unveiling.
Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae unveiled the new Sapper Moore-Jones Place, formerly Marlborough Place, along with a plaque attached to the wall of the former Hamilton Hotel, where Mr Moore-Jones lived and died in the hotel's 1922 fire.
Sir Jerry said he was pleased to be present at the occasion, which he said resonated well with his former roles in the New Zealand Defence Force.
"I'm really, really pleased that the mayor, the council and Hamilton have chosen to recognise Mr Moore-Jones in this way," he said.
"I guess they could have had a Moore-Jones Place anywhere in the city, but to have it here where his real connection to Hamilton was, it's a neat expression of the esteem that we should hold for people like him."
Sapper Moore-Jones is the artist of the evocative Man with Donkey watercolour painting depicting a military medic transporting a wounded soldier by donkey, a painting which became the face and glory of the Anzac tale of Gallipoli.
Along with creating this iconic piece, Mr Moore-Jones became a hero once more when he selflessly entered the burning Hamilton Hotel and subsequently died saving others from the fire of April 3, 1922.
An antique fire engine, believed to have attended the devastating fire, made an appearance at the ceremony.
Along with the many dignitaries present, guests of honour included descendants of Mr Moore-Jones and even the son of Lieutenant Richard Alexander "Dick" Henderson - the man with the donkey.
Mr Moore-Jones' granddaughter, Cherry Barnaby, said the family had been wanting to commemorate her grandfather "for years and years" and was pleased that it had finally come to fruition.
"All I can say is we are so proud and honoured to be here," she said.
And Ross Henderson, youngest son of Lieutenant Henderson, said he was delighted to be a part of the day, especially as his son, Lee, was currently serving as a medic in Afghanistan.
The man with the donkey was once commonly believed to be Australian soldier Simpson, especially across the Tasman, however Mr Henderson said he always knew it was his dad.
"The Australians are always vocal," he joked.
The project was prompted by Hamilton group, Theatre of the Impossible Trust, who also plan to erect a statue of the hero at the site.
- © Fairfax NZ News