New gallery honours our war heroes

By Roger Moroney

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Hastings RSA stalwart John Stables with the framed tribute to VC winner Keith Elliott, who had links to the Hawke's Bay. Photo / Duncan Brown
Hastings RSA stalwart John Stables with the framed tribute to VC winner Keith Elliott, who had links to the Hawke's Bay. Photo / Duncan Brown

Twenty three Victoria Cross-winning heroes of battle, from the New Zealand Wars through to the conflict in Afghanistan, were honoured this morning at the opening of a remarkable new gallery at the Hastings Returned Services Association.

The RSA's support adviser John Stables said the collection of photographs, citations and a full array of all the medals awarded cast in miniature, was the only one of its kind in the country.

"We have worked on this for seven years and it has finally come to fruition.

"It is a remarkable collection and I think some visitors will find it quite emotional."

The unique collection was blessed by Sister Marlene Dunn and then officially opened by Brigadier Ken Foote (Ret) to guests and visitors who arrived after this morning's Hastings Dawn Service.

What had been the Poppy Room, used for meetings and conferences, will now be known as the Victoria Cross room.

The idea was sparked after Mr Stables was approached by the daughter of one of the VC winners, Keith Elliott, who grew up in the Wairarapa and also lived in Hastings where he farmed after marrying local girl Margaret Markham in February 1944.

Their daughter Elizabeth, one of five children they had, and living in Hastings, asked if it was possible to get a copy made of his VC and other medals as the originals were on display at the QEII Army Memorial Museum in Waiouru. Another family member also wanted a replica, and Mr Stables said yes, he could arrange that through Kapiti-based medallic specialist Tony Prowse.

"Then I went and spoke to Neil (RSA CEO Neil Murphy) and said let's get three and we'll keep one here."

He said Mr Elliott's association with Hastings and Hawke's Bay made him as good as "one of ours".

Mr Murphy's response sealed what became a seven-year mission to commemorate and pay respect to New Zealand's VC winners.

"He said 'why don't we do them all?"

Mr Stables said the absolute and immovable aim of the whole project was that the result had to be "the very best we could do" in paying tribute to all the Kiwi heroes who were awarded the VC.

Mt Prowse went through the records and citations of all 23 winners and sourced replicas of all the medals they received during their service from several overseas sites.

"It was huge job and he has done it superbly - we are so very proud of this," Mr Stables said.

A special certificate of recognition was presented to Mr Prowse.

The project was carried out piece by piece as finances allowed, with the total cost coming in at about $8000.

But as Mr Stables pointed out, it was a one-of-a-kind display.

"They don't have anything like this even at the QEII museum."

New Zealand's Victoria Cross winners

*Major Charles Heaphy, Auckland Rifle Volunteers, NZ Militia. Date of action: February 11, 1864 (Waikato, New Zealand). Date of award: February 8, 1867.

*Farrier Sergeant-Major William Hardham, 4th NZ Contingent. Date of action: January 28, 1901 (near Naauwpoort, South Africa). Date of award: October 4, 1901.

*Corporal Cyril Bassett, NZ Divisional Signals, 1NZEF. Date of action: August 7, 1915 (Gallipoli, Turkey). Date of award: October 15, 1915.

*Sergeant Donald Brown, 2nd Battalion, Otago Infantry Regiment, 1NZEF. Date of action: September 15, 1916 (near Flanders, France). Date of award: June 14, 1917 (posthumous award).

*Lance-Corporal Samuel Frickleton, 3rd Battalion, 3rd NZ (Rifle) Brigade, 1NZEF. Date of action: June 7, 1917 (Messines, Belgium). Date of award: August 2, 1917.

*Corporal Leslie Andrew, 2nd Battalion, Wellington Infantry Regiment, 1NZEF. Date of action: July 31,1917 (La Basseville, Belgium). Date of award: September 6, 1917.

*Private Henry Nicholas, 1st Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment, 1NZEF. Date of action: December 3, 1917 (Polderhoek, Belgium). Date of award: January 11, 1918.

*Lieutenant Commander William Sanders, Royal Navy. Date of action: June 12, 1917 (Atlantic Ocean). Date of Award: June 1918 (posthumous award).

*Sergeant Richard Travis, 2nd Battalion, Otago Infantry Regiment, 1NZEF. Date of action: July 24, 1918 (Rossignol Wood, France). Date of award: September 27, 1918 (posthumous award).

*Sergeant Samuel Forsyth, NZ Engineers, attached to 2nd Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment, 1NZEF. Date of action: August 24, 1918 (Grevillers, France). Date of award: October 22, 1918 (posthumous award).

*Sergeant Reginald Judson, 1st Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment, 1NZEF. Date of action: August 26, 1918 (near Bapaume, France). Date of award: October 30, 1918.

*Private James Crichton, 2nd Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment, 1NZEF. Date of action: September 30, 1918 (Crevecoeur, France). Date of award: November 15, 1918.

*Sergeant Henry John Laurent, 2nd Battalion, 3rd NZ (Rifle) Brigade, 1NZEF. Date of action: September 12, 1918 (Gouzeaucourt Wood, France). Date of award: November 15, 1918.

*Sergeant John Gildroy Grant, 1st Battalion, Wellington Infantry Regiment, 1NZEF. Date of action: September 1, 1918 (near Bancourt, France). Date of award: November 27, 1918.

*Sergeant James Allen Ward, RNZAF (attached to RAF). Date of action: July 7, 1941 (over The Netherlands). Date of award: August 5, 1941.

*Sergeant Alfred Clive Hulme, 23rd Battalion, 2NZEF. Date of action: May 20-28, 1941 (Crete). Date of award: October 14, 1941.

*Captain Charles Hazlitt Upham, 20th Battalion, 2NZEF (two VCs). Date of actions: May 22-30, 1941 (Crete) and July 14-15, 1942 (North Africa). Dates of awards: October 14, 1941 and September 26, 1945.

*Sergeant John Daniel Hinton, 20th Battalion, 2NZEF. Date of action: April 28-29, 1941 (Kalamata, Greece). Date of award: October 17, 1941.

*Sergeant Keith Elliott, 22nd Battalion, 2NZEF. Date of action: July 15, 1942 (Ruweisat Ridge, North Africa). Date of award: September 24, 1942.

*Second Lieutenant Moana-nui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu, 28th (Maori) Battalion, 2NZEF. Date of action: March 26, 1943 (Tebaga Gap, Tunisia). Date of award: June 4, 1943 (posthumous award).

*Flying Officer Lloyd Allan Trigg, RNZAF (attached to RAF). Date of action: August 11, 1943 (over the Atlantic). Date of award: November 2, 1943 (posthumous award).

*Squadron-Leader Leonard Henry Trent, RNZAF (attached to RAF). Date of action: May 3, 1943 (over the Netherlands). Date of award: March 1, 1946.

*Lance-Corporal Bill (Willie) Henry Apiata, NZSAS. Date of action: circa May-September 2004 (Afghanistan). Date of award: July 2, 2007.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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