Anzac bridges to link commemorations

By Nathan Crombie nathan.crombie@age.co.nz -
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The Anzac Memorial Bridge at Kaiparoro in Wairarapa. PHOTO/FACEBOOK
The Anzac Memorial Bridge at Kaiparoro in Wairarapa. PHOTO/FACEBOOK

Author Phillipa Werry has spanned the Tasman Sea with a war memorial bridge project that will link rural Wairarapa schoolchildren with their Australian counterparts on Anzac Day.

Werry, of Wellington, is a successful fiction and non-fiction writer who has been working for the past fortnight at the New Zealand Pacific Studio at Mt Bruce as the 2016 NZPS Friends of Anzac Bridge Fellow.

The Anzac memorial bridge at Brooweena in Queensland, Australia. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
The Anzac memorial bridge at Brooweena in Queensland, Australia. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

She has a "special interest" in war stories for children, she said, and wrote several books in the genre including Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story in 2013, Best Mates in 2014 and Armistice Day last year.

Research for the stories sparked the idea for her latest project to have Anzac Day messages shared between rural schoolchildren from the community surrounding the Kaiparoro Anzac memorial bridge and schoolchildren in Australia who also had a similar war memorial structure in their own community.

"The little bridge at Kaiparoro is unique in New Zealand and I thought it would be good to find something similar in Australia, which is more difficult that it sounds because it was quite an unusual idea to build a war memorial bridge.

"I thought there would be lots of them but there were not very many at all."

Werry found a bridge in the rural Queensland area of Brooweena that shared similar attributes with the bridge and area back home in New Zealand.

The bridge at Brooweena was unique, as the only privately built structure of its kind in Queensland, and both structures were built about the same time in similarly small farming districts. Each had been since closed to traffic as well.

Werry also discovered the Australian bridge commemorated the war deaths of nine soldiers, just like the bridge at Kaiparoro, although it also bore the names of the 38 soldiers who returned home after surviving the war.

Werry has viewed Anzac Day messages, illustrations, and poems from pupils at Mauriceville and Eketahuna schools, of which some will be emailed and mailed to Brooweena State School pupils, who were to send similar messages in return.

"At the Anzac Day service here, we will read out a message from Brooweena and the names of the Broweena soldiers and they will read out a message we send to them and the names of our soldiers at their Anzac commemoration."

Werry had also over the past two weeks visited the Anzac memorial at Tinui, she said, and contacted a Queensland farmer whose front gates open on to the Brooweena war memorial bridge and a couple who had taken images of war memorial in Queensland during the 1990s.

"I have written quite a lot about World War I but this has been a different sort of project and it's been really great to make those Anzac connections, and I've really enjoyed being out here in the Wairarapa and getting a sense of what the communities were like that those soldiers left behind them when they went away to war."

The names inscribed on the bridge at Kaiparoro include World War I servicemen Arthur Braddock, Victor Falkner (the youngest son of the bridge's designer Alfred Falkner), Charles Harvey, Stephen Morgan, Donald Pallant, and John Snell; and World War II service personnel William Kewley, Margaret McAnulty and Brian Minett.

The names of the war dead inscribed on the bridge at Brooweena include William Sorensen, Carl Dombrow, Robert Dukes, George Bates, David Boldery, Edward Nichol, John Keates, Malcolm Spidern and William Brown.

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