War memorial unveiled at Marsden Valley video

MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ

A memorial statue of Nelson soldier JH 'Jack' Cock is unveiled at Marsden Valley Cemetery, 100 years after he was killed in action.

Five New Zealand Airforce planes roar in a V-shaped formation overhead as hundreds gather at the Marsden Valley Returned Servicemen Cemetery for the unveiling of a new memorial.

They've come to honour the day a statue of Nelson's JH 'Jack' Cock is revealed 100 years after he was killed in action.

Jack's Royal Flying Corps plane was shot down by one of Germany's highest-scoring "air aces" of the First World War, Kurt Wolf, on April 15, 1917.

The service brought back many memories for John Beeching, 93, who flew during World War II.
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ

The service brought back many memories for John Beeching, 93, who flew during World War II.

Today his bronzed figure stands in recognition of the sacrifice made by men and women of the Nelson and Tasman districts who served their country. 

A crowd of at least 500 servicemen, ex-servicemen, cadets, dignitaries and members of the public gathered for the commemoration on Saturday where the community rallied to complete the project before them.

The memorial and statue had been nine years in the making. It was the brainchild of New Zealand Air Force bugler Sergeant Mason Robinson.

The Royal New Zealand Air Force Air Force, Black Falcons team fly over opening ceremony of the new WWI War Memorial at ...
MARTIN DE RUYTER

The Royal New Zealand Air Force Air Force, Black Falcons team fly over opening ceremony of the new WWI War Memorial at Marsden Valley Cemetery.

After Robinson played the last post, Air Force veteran John Beeching said the moment was magic. "It brought back a lot of old memories," he said.

"It's fantastic." He hoped the figure would resonate with youth for many Anzac ceremonies to come, as it appeared to have done at its unveiling.

"It's always gratifying to see ... more young people attending. It must mean something to them."

The memorial and statue was the brainchild of New Zealand Air Force bugler Sergeant Mason Robinson.
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ

The memorial and statue was the brainchild of New Zealand Air Force bugler Sergeant Mason Robinson.

Beeching said the addition of the memorial at the cemetery grounds was "marvellous".

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"This is the first time I've been here, believe it or not, and one of these days it will be the last time I'll leave here."

Robinson said the idea for the statue came to him when he saw the unveiling of the New Zealand and Australian statues revealed on Sydney's Anzac Bridge.

He said at a service about a week later at Marsden Valley he looked around him and "thought for the veterans and soldiers, there was no real memorial here for their last resting place." That was the light-bulb moment, he said.

Funding was obtained to commission artist Don Paterson to build a statue, but when it was completed Robinson realised a memorial to match the statue was needed.

Two years later the New Zealand Army Three Fields Squadron engineers set about building something worthy.

"The community involvement has just been phenomenal."

He said his motivation was to honour his father and the servicemen of past and present. "I just look at the veterans before me and think what they've gone through. They deserve it [the best]."

Minister of Veterans' Affairs David Bennet said it was privilege to stand together to honour the sacrifice of veterans and servicemen.

"Their contribution [led] to the freedom, peace and security we have at home and enjoy today," he said.

"The 100th anniversary of WWI has provided a catalyst for many centenary commemorative events ... each project tells a story about the community that was affected by those events long ago."

The memorial statue is made of crushed marble and epoxy-resin. The internal is primarily fibre-glass with steel arms through it.

Every crease of Jack's uniform has been drilled and filled with a marble/resin mixture. The hands and face of the soldier are made of copper.

Paterson said Jack stands in reversed arms but is a little "slumped", a Brodie Helmet clipped to his pack. A lot of time was taken to get every detail right, down to his buttons and moustache, he said.

"He's thinking about what he's been through."

Paterson said it was a privilege to work on. "It represents such a powerful lineage of people."

 - Stuff

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