Crosses bring home war's reality

By Roger Moroney

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Napier cadets and children from 22 schools across the region prepare to place the commemorative crosses at Memorial Square. Photo/Duncan Brown
Napier cadets and children from 22 schools across the region prepare to place the commemorative crosses at Memorial Square. Photo/Duncan Brown

Under grey skies and light rain, 208 white crosses were placed across a consecrated section of Memorial Square in Napier yesterday.

The cross-laying involved pupils from 22 schools across Napier and Taradale and local army and air cadets, Sea Scouts, Red Cross and St John groups.

The cross-laying party included veterans and serving defence force personnel and was a poignant part of the commemorative service to remember the fallen.

Napier Civic Field of Remembrance was put together by Napier and Taradale Returned Services Association with the support of the Napier City Council and commemorates the 100th anniversary of World War I - with 207 of the crosses bearing the names of Napier and Taradale citizens who lost their lives during the war.

"They are all buried in foreign countries so to have them acknowledged individually is very important," Napier RSA president John Purcell said.

"They are all heroes and we should be very proud of them."

The 208th cross which was placed bore no name and was dedicated to the unknown warrior.

Many of the young people assigned to place the crosses on the positions marked by a poppy looked at the names inscribed upon them and clearly took it all in, placing the crosses carefully and respectfully.

"It's good to see the younger generation getting involved," Mr Purcell said.

"It is important for them to know the history of what has gone before."

The service began with the marching on of the Memorial Cenotaph guard comprising cadets, and the raising of the flags.

Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said it was a "moving sight" to see the young people standing quietly, and stoically, in the rain, each bearing a cross.

"Each of those crosses represents the ultimate sacrifice - a life lost - we owe them so much and we shall never forget them."

Napier Boys' High School head boy Dominic Dixon then stepped forward and issued the instruction to "please place the crosses".

The names of all those who lost their lives were then read out and pupils from St Joseph's Maori Girls' College sang.

Among the school groups was Puketapu School where eight children were part of the cross-bearing party.

"They have a very good understanding of what they are doing today," principal Chris Fox said, adding that the children had been told about the sacrifices made during war.

The rain did not phase them at all.

"They knew that the soldiers had to carry on in the rain and the mud."

Mr Purcell said it was often difficult for people today to comprehend what had happened and the service was a poignant reminder of a different age, and how different things were 100 years ago.

Local kaumatua and representatives of the RSA gathered at the site just after 8am for a blessing of the area where the crosses were to be laid.

They will remain in place until April 26, the day after Anzac Day, when a short service will be carried out before they are removed.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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