Crosses a tribute to fallen soldiers

By Sandra Conchie

Add a comment
EMOTIONAL: John McDonald and his sister Jill Rice, whose great-uncle Reg Watkins lost his life on the Western Front on July 23, 1916, laid a cross in his memory in the Field of Remembrance in Masonic Park yesterday.
EMOTIONAL: John McDonald and his sister Jill Rice, whose great-uncle Reg Watkins lost his life on the Western Front on July 23, 1916, laid a cross in his memory in the Field of Remembrance in Masonic Park yesterday.

One-hundred-and-seven white painted crosses were planted to honour the lives of the local fallen soldiers in World War I during a moving Field of Remembrance service in Masonic Park yesterday.

John McDonald, who was accompanied by his sister Jill Rice, planted a cross to honour their great-uncle Private Reg Watkins, who was killed on the Western Front on July 23, 1916.

Before the crosses were planted, the ground was blessed by the Reverend Kotene Pihema and he read the dedication, which was accompanied by two bagpipers playing the ode.

Mr McDonald said his great-uncle was the brother of his grandfather, Lewis Watkins, who also served in World War I and returned home to live in Tauranga, dying on his 80th birthday in the 1970s.

"This is a very special commemoration for our family, and I feel honoured to be able to be part of this remembrance service - to honour Reg's life and the sacrifice he and the other men made," he said.

"I found it quite emotional and special."

Jill Rice said that when she watched her brother plant the cross and saw it resting among all the other crosses, it "brought a lump to my throat".

"It was a very moving ceremony, especially when I heard our great-uncle was one of the 18,000 people who died in the prime of their lives, fighting for all the freedoms we enjoy," she said.

The rest of the crosses were planted by the president of Tauranga RSA Dick Frew, Mount Maunganui RSA vice-president Terry Smith, Paul Anderson from WW100 Tauranga and Andy Collins from the NZ Volunteer Fire Service, or other deceaseds' family members. Local navy, army and air force cadets and veterans from all the conflicts also assisted.

When bugler Peter Cranston played the Last Post, there was a groundswell of emotion.

WW100 Tauranga treasurer Mr Anderson said Tauranga's Field of Remembrance was a spin-off from the Field of Remembrance Trust project, set up by the Auckland RSA and the national RSA body to commemorate the 18,000 soldiers killed in World War I.

Mr Anderson said more than 100,000, or about one-tenth of the population, served overseas in World War I and 18 per cent were killed, including 107 from Tauranga. The population of the settlement at the time was estimated at 1374.

"That's a huge number and it helped to shape the future of this nation," he told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.

Mr Anderson said after the Armistice Day commemorations the crosses will be taken to Wellington to become part of a bigger Field of Remembrance memorial. A location is yet to be decided but it is possible they will be erected in the new park at the National Memorial, he said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf02 at 27 Dec 2014 06:44:40 Processing Time: 269ms