Dannevirke's Soldiers' Institute was officially opened on January 22, 1919, and on Sunday, January 27, a celebratory afternoon tea will be held in the building which is now the Dannevirke Services and Citizens Club.

The Dannevirke Returned Services was formed slightly earlier because soldiers' had returned to Dannevirke before the end of World War I, forming themselves into a returned services association by late 1917.

Initially, assisted by the young women of Dannevirke they organised dances and other social events.

Soldiers outside the Soldiers' Institute on Anzac Day, 1919.
Soldiers outside the Soldiers' Institute on Anzac Day, 1919.

But when the war ended and many more soldiers returned home, the association became more concerned with looking after the economic interests of its members.

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On January 22, 1919, the Soldiers' Institute was opened by Acting Prime Minister Sir James Allen.

At the time the Evening News described the scene at the opening, where the brass band played and crowds thronged the footpaths.

At the Soldier's Institute in Dannevirke, now the Services and Citizens Club, Don Allardice, father of Fred Allardice, is bottom right, while his brother Perc, who also returned safely from World War I is also in the photo.
At the Soldier's Institute in Dannevirke, now the Services and Citizens Club, Don Allardice, father of Fred Allardice, is bottom right, while his brother Perc, who also returned safely from World War I is also in the photo.

But there were those of a more somber mood, because the loss of their men who hadn't returned from the battlefield.

The Soldiers' Institute proved to be a great success and became a second home for many returned soldiers.

In the early years it was the site of socials and dances as the young men and women of the town sought to re-establish normal social lives. For many of the men it remained a sanctuary for the rest of their lives.

One of those men was Fred Allardice's father, Donald Newton Allardice, who served in every major battle in World War I as a gunner in the field artillery and with the Wellington Mounted Rifles.

He was at Gallipoli, Chunuk Bair, Hill 60 and fought at Lone Pine, too, serving there in 1915 and all over Western Europe in 1916, 1917 and 1918.

He was gassed and suffered from dysentery, but survived and came home from the war and had 10 children.

The Soldiers' Institute was a place where he and his brother Perc could, like so many others, meet, share memories and a drink or two.

Between 1914-18 these cats were made out of light cardboard by students at Dannevirke High School. They were sold to help provide funds for chairs for the returning servicemen to use in what was then the Soldiers' Institute. This original black cat is on display in the Dannevirke Gallery of History.
Between 1914-18 these cats were made out of light cardboard by students at Dannevirke High School. They were sold to help provide funds for chairs for the returning servicemen to use in what was then the Soldiers' Institute. This original black cat is on display in the Dannevirke Gallery of History.

The Dannevirke and Districts RSA, along with the Women's Section, headed by Verna Hutching and June Carr, have organised a tea party to commemorate the 100 years on Sunday, February 27, at 2.30pm with a historic display of the 100 years of history.

The event is open to everyone and for catering purposes, those attending can phone Roly Ellis, RSA president on 374 7617 or email Monique socom4mon@gmail.com