1931 earthquake survivors share stories at Napier tea

By Anneke Smith -
1 comment

Survivors of the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake gathered at Napier Boys' High School yesterday to share their experiences and stories in what was another special afternoon tea.

Held once a year, the event drew a 200-strong crowd and hosted Assistant Chief of the Royal New Zealand Navy Captain Karl Woodhead as guest speaker.

Locals from throughout the Bay were eager for the opportunity to share stories, cups of tea and scones with one another in true community spirit.

The youngest survivor Raymon Barrett (3 weeks old) and oldest survivor Jim Moran (14 years old) joined Napier Mayor Bill Dalton and guest speaker Captain Woodhead in ceremoniously cutting the cake.

Just several days from turning 15 years old at the time of the quake, Mr Moran said he was playing a game of Bobs with his brother at the kitchen table when the quake hit his home with a "mighty thud".

Mr Moran, now 101 years old, recalled watching his mother struggle down the house's narrow passageway towards the boys, swaying side to side as the ground shook.

Captain Woodhead, having spent his teenage years in Napier, recalled a story his great-grandmother used to tell about one of her friends going to identify the body of her son at school.

"She spotted his shoes poking out from under the cover over his body and exclaimed that was her son as she recognised the way she had tied the laces that morning for his first day of school," he said.

While everyone in the room undoubtedly had a personal connection to the quake, Mr Woodhead used much of his speech to outline the role the Navy plays, and continues to play, during earthquakes in New Zealand.

When the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake struck the HMNZS Veronica was already in the Napier port, Captain Woodhead said.

"HMNZS Veronica put parties ashore to assist with rescue, to attend to the injured, to feed the hungry and to help establish a sense of order amongst all that chaos. She also radioed news of that event to the outside world," the captain said.

Valerie Buckley and Noeline Foote, who were 6 and 5 years old at the time, said they were on the playground at Nelson Park School when the quake struck.

"The main thing I can remember is standing and not being able to understand why every time I stood up I'll be thrown down to the ground again," Ms Buckley recalled.

She vividly recalled watching the school grounds "rolling like waves".

Captain Woodhead drew several parallels between the Bay's quake recent events; one of these being that the damage from both the 1931 quake in Hawke's Bay and the 2016 quake in Kaikoura meant that the sea was the only access point for supplies.

"The common thread through these stories is that in a major natural disaster New Zealand's defence force, and in particular New Zealand's navy, was able to provide immediate assistance and as we saw in Kaikoura, call on the assistance of ships from other nations," he said.

"In a crisis, one of the first things people look for is that guidance, some sort of authority figure. The presence of uniforms on the street provides that and it's a visible demonstration that the government is still working and more importantly cares about its citizens," he said.

For more articles from this region, go to

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 28 Apr 2017 06:04:54 Processing Time: 624ms