By Tony Wall
Lest we forget? It seems Auckland has well forgotten a group of First World War diggers.
The Memorial Beacon, a 1915 monument that commanded pride of place on the Auckland waterfront for 50 years, has been dumped in a dingy shed on Bledisloe Wharf.
The once magnificent memorial to waterfront workers who fought and gave their lives in battle lies broken and grimy among junk and scrap metal in Shed 51.
The memorial -- believed to be the first Anzac monument erected in New Zealand -- has been out of the public eye for 30 years. There are no other war memorials in downtown Auckland.
Ports of Auckland managers said they had no knowledge of the monument when the Weekend Herald contacted them this week after a tip-off.
They allowed us through a secure Customs area to search for the memorial and we found it in a storage area.
The obelisk was lying on its side among piles of scrap metal, its large granite base sitting on an old packing crate.
Four rolls of honour had broken off, but in the half-light of the shed the names of the soldiers could still be made out.
An iron railing, which held in place an orb that burned bright red at night, was missing, as were bronze shields once attached to the base.
Historians have expressed surprise and delight at the discovery.
One of the foremost authorities on war memorials, Jock
Phillips of the Department of Internal Affairs, said yesterday that if the monument had been put up in 1915, it would be the first Great War memorial in New Zealand.
He said other memorials around the country had disappeared or fallen into disrepair.
It was up to communities to decide whether they were worth restoring.
Ports of Auckland spokeswoman Adrienne Sharp said it was
too early to say what would happen to the monument but the company wanted it to "go to a good home."
The monument -- commemorating the 116 waterfront workers who went to war -- was erected in a garden on the corner of Albert St and Quay St by the old Auckland Harbour Board.
Former board chief executive Bob Lorimer said the monument was put into storage in 1969 during the development of the Downtown shopping centre, with the intention of resurrecting it elsewhere. It was regrettable that had not happened.
The Auckland branch of the RSA says it will research the memorial after Anzac Day with a view to restoring it.
Spokesman Steve Matheson said there were also plans to re-establish another old memorial that had disappeared from the Auckland Institute of Technology and been put in storage.
Noel Trevarthen, of Kawau Island, urged authorities to restore the memorial as a lasting tribute. His Great-Uncle Alfred is on the Memorial Beacon roll of honour and is among the 15 waterside workers who died in battle.
By Tony Wall