Wairarapa community honours settlers' sacrifice in Gallipoli and France through unique Anzac bridge

The Anzac Memorial Bridge at Kaiparoro near Eketahuna is the country's only bridge built specifically as an Anzac memorial.
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The Anzac Memorial Bridge at Kaiparoro near Eketahuna is the country's only bridge built specifically as an Anzac memorial.

A few years after a group of stubborn pioneers clear-felled a remote, muddy Wairarapa valley, six of their sons squared their shoulders and set off to war.

All those young men from Kaiparoro, south of Eketahuna, were soon killed at Gallipoli and in Europe, joining the more than 18,000 Kiwis to die in World War I.

But few of those commemorated today, the centenary of the first Anzac Day services, would count on a memorial as meaningful – and as useful – as Kaiparoro's unique Anzac Bridge.

John "Jack" Snell is pictured here outside his family home in Christchurch, with (from left) his brother George and ...
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John "Jack" Snell is pictured here outside his family home in Christchurch, with (from left) his brother George and sisters Emily and Lillian.

When noted Wellington engineer Alfred Falkner moved to Kaiparoro to mill a section of 70-Mile Bush in1889, the untouched valley was still filled with massive, centuries-old matai, rimu and totara.

Years of tough, dangerous work replaced the bush with pasture, leaving one small remnant at nearby Mt Bruce.

Among Kaiparoro's challenges was a precarious ford over the often rain-swollen Makakahi River.

Victor Falkner's father Alfred wrote this poignant note beside this photo of his son in uniform: "Missing since August ...
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Victor Falkner's father Alfred wrote this poignant note beside this photo of his son in uniform: "Missing since August 28, 1915."

Falkner, who had designed the Wellington to Manawatu rail line, would have had no idea he would one day bridge that river to honour the deaths of his youngest son Victor, his nephew Donald Pallant, and four other local men.

Victor Falkner was 21 when he enlisted in December, 1914.

He'd had time only to go to Kaiparoro School, work in his father's mill and get a brief taste of independence through a farmhand job at Opotiki.

The last postcard home of Charles Harvey, who is memorialised on the Anzac Bridge at Kaiparoro. It was sent two days ...
ROLAND AND KATHLEEN HARVEY

The last postcard home of Charles Harvey, who is memorialised on the Anzac Bridge at Kaiparoro. It was sent two days before he was killed.

Fair-haired and grey-eyed, he was one of 12 siblings.

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He was killed at Gallipoli within a year; his body was never found.

On the day he was reported missing in action, August 28, about 150 other Kiwis died and one soldier recorded in his diary: "We are a sorry, broken-up looking crowd now, it is hard to think of our mates who have gone".

The embroidered front of the last postcard home of Charles Harvey. He posted it to his mother Letitia from France just ...
ROLAND AND KATHLEEN HARVEY

The embroidered front of the last postcard home of Charles Harvey. He posted it to his mother Letitia from France just two days before he was killed in action.

His cousin Donald Pallant's parents lived at Kaiparoro, but Pallant went to what is now Palmerston North Boys' High School before becoming a teacher in Wellington.

Described in his army records as a small man with grey eyes and light brown hair, he studied Arts at Victoria University, then enlisted a few months before Falkner.

He died before him too, within a fortnight of the Anzac Cove landings.

Charles Harvey left behind a precious keepsake for his mother.
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Charles Harvey left behind a precious keepsake for his mother.

The exact date is unknown because he, too, was among the many soldiers who simply vanished in the bedlam.

In 1922, a grieving but ever-practical Alfred Falkner combined honouring them with building the district's long-needed bridge.

He inscribed Alfred and Donald's names on the bridge alongside those of four others from the area: Arthur Braddick, Charles Harvey, Stephen Morgan and John Snell.

The joy of Arthur and Madeline Braddick on their wedding day was tempered by the knowledge Arthur would soon leave for ...
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The joy of Arthur and Madeline Braddick on their wedding day was tempered by the knowledge Arthur would soon leave for the front.

The names of three other locals who died in WWII were added later: Edward Kewley​, Margaret McAnulty and Brian Minett​.

Falkner's great-nephew Peter Bryson used to love going to Kaiparoro as a child to visit his grandmother, whose husband was Victor's older brother, and swim under the bridge his great-grandfather built.

"They were very resilient people... for many generations those families [named on the bridge] were represented in the communities that these young men fought to preserve.

"They wanted to preserve their homeland and what they'd all grown for and worked for, that was why they were willing to take themselves off overseas and fight."

Sally Barclay and Peter Bryson at the 2015 ceremony at the Anzac Memorial Bridge. Barclay is the granddaughter of Arthur ...
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Sally Barclay and Peter Bryson at the 2015 ceremony at the Anzac Memorial Bridge. Barclay is the granddaughter of Arthur Braddick, named on the bridge, who was killed in 1918. Bryson is the great-grandson of Alfred Falkner, who built the bridge in memory of his son Victor Falkner and nephew Donald Pallant, both killed at Gallipoli, and four other locals who died in WWI.

Bryson's cousin John Hay has visited Gallipoli, where his great-uncles Victor and Donald died, and said it made him both sad and angry.

 "It's a barbaric place to go ashore... they were sending them to their deaths."

Every Anzac Day, Bryson, Hay and a small group of locals and other relatives gather at the bridge to honour those men whose determination in the face of the horrors of war was surely shaped by Kaiparoro's rough terrain.

Donald Pallant was the nephew of Alfred Falkner, who designed and helped build the Kaiparoro Anzac Memorial Bridge.
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Donald Pallant was the nephew of Alfred Falkner, who designed and helped build the Kaiparoro Anzac Memorial Bridge.

BRIDGE FROM WAR TO PEACE

By 1922, persistent lobbying had finally secured government funding for a concrete-arch bridge over the Makakahi, and the Kaiparoro community was among the few to choose a functional war memorial over the more usual cenotaphs.

Because of Alfred Falkner's particular loss at Gallipoli, they made it not just a war memorial, but a dedicated Anzac memorial.

Stephen Morgan is one of six servicemen who died in WWI and is commemorated on NZ's only Anzac memorial bridge, at ...
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Stephen Morgan is one of six servicemen who died in WWI and is commemorated on NZ's only Anzac memorial bridge, at Kaiparoro south of Eketahuna.

Superseded by remodelling of State Highway 2 in 1956, the bridge faced demolition until a group of determined locals and soldiers' relatives set up a committee in 2006 and restored it.

In 2010, Heritage NZ declared it a Category 1 Historic Place, noting no other structure was both specifically an Anzac memorial, and a functional bridge.

The only WWI soldier named on the bridge who left a direct descendant was Arthur Braddick, who married Madeline Henson​ after enlisting in 1917.

Their daughter Joan was born after he left for the front later that year, and he was killed in battle, aged 28, in 1918 – just weeks before Armistice.

His grand-daughter Sally Barclay said her mother Joan always talked proudly of walking to school daily over "her father's bridge".

"And she could be proud, because most of the locals milked and that bridge was how they got their milk to the dairy factory... It was a memorial with real value to the community," said Barclay, who now lives in Auckland.

Relatives told Joan that Arthur was a gentle, kind man with a "cheeky grin", and a good sense of humour.

A lifelong treasure of Joan's was a porcelain doll paid for by the father she never met, who sent the money from France.

His enlistment records describe him as having "fissured fingers" from milking, and Barclay said that summed up the nature of the bridge, those it commemorated, and the volunteers who rescued it from demolition.

"I think it's just such a lovely spot, if you stand on the bridge and look down the valley you can see the land Arthur was brought up on, and left from... it's really beautiful."

Another of the men to leave a special keepsake was Charles Harvey, who never forgot his siblings and parents in Morgan's Rd, Kaiparoro – but especially his mother, Letitia.

After working on his father's farm he enlisted in 1916 and was sent to France, from where he posted frequent, brief letters to Letitia.

On April 18, 1917, while he was hospitalised with mumps, he bought her a small, colourful postcard with the hand-embroidered message: "To my dear mother".

He wrote: "Just a [post card] to let you know that I am well. I have not had a letter from you for some time, but I am expecting one every day... hoping this will find both you and Dad quite well.... remember me to the boys".

He put it in an envelope, posted it to to Morgan's Rd, Kaiparoro, and two days later died on the battlefield.

His nephew Roland Harvey has the postcard now, and said the message showed how much his uncle thought of home, and the impact on those he left there.

"You were working to better your children's lives, and their parents would have thought they'd done all this hard work and now they had no-one to pass it on to.

"It would have been pretty heart-breaking."

* An Anzac Day Service will be held at the Memorial Bridge on Monday from 2pm, followed by afternoon tea at Pukaha Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre.

 

LEST WE FORGET

ARTHUR LOCK BRADDICK

Rank last held: Private

Unit: 1st Bn, Canterbury Regiment, NZEF

Date of death: September 29, 1918

Cause of death: Killed in action

Cemetery: Fifteen Ravine British, Villers-Plouich, France

VICTOR ANDREW FALKNER

Rank last held: Trooper

Unit: 4th Reinf., Auckland Mounted Rifles

Date of death: August 28, 1915

Cause of death: Killed in action

Cemetery: Hill 60 (NZ), Gallipoli, Turkey.

CHARLES GIBSON HARVEY

Rank last held: Private

Unit: 2nd Bn, Wellington Regiment, NZEF 

Date of death: April 20, 1917

Cause of death: Killed in action

Cemetery: La Plus Douve Farm, Belgium.

STEPHEN MORGAN

Rank last held: Rifleman

Unit: 3rd Bn, NZ Rifle Brigade

Date of death: October 12, 1917

Cause of death: Killed in action

Cemetery: Unmarked grave in Flanders, and named on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.

DONALD KELWAY​ PALLANT

Rank last held: Sergeant

Unit: Main Body, Wellington Regiment, NZEF

Date of death: May 8, 1915

Cause of death: Killed in action

Cemetery: Unknown grave, and named on the Twelve Tree Copse (NZ) Memorial, Turkey.

JOHN HAROLD SNELL

Rank last held: Sapper

Unit: NZ Engineers

Date of death: January 3, 1918.

Cause of death: Killed in action

Cemetery: Lijssenthoek​, Belgium.

Sources: Living in Kaiparoro by Kay Flavell; Lynette Dewes; Wairarapa Archive; Friends of the ANZAC Bridge.​

 - Stuff

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