Monuments to Whanganui's military history are always of interest to visitors and a guided tour provided by Returned Services' Kyle Dalton attracted about 60 participants on Thursday.

First stop on the Whanganui Summer Programme tour was the Moutoa monument - New Zealand's first war memorial, erected in 1865 to commemorate the battle of Moutoa Island.

Mr Dalton said the statue, also known as the weeping woman, was probably a world first in war memorials.

"It is probably the first statue that was ever erected by colonisers to honour the colonised," he said.


The monument commemorates 15 kupapa (Maori fighting on the government side) who were killed at Moutoa Island while fighting anti-pakeha Pai Marire supporters (Hauhau) from the upper Whanganui River.

The monument also recognises pakeha Brother Euloge - a lay brother from the Catholic mission shot during the conflict.

Whanganui's grateful pakeha citizens of the time interpreted the Moutoa victory as a sign of loyalty from their Maori neighbours and the statue and flag were proposed to honour them.

Mr Dalton said the flag was on display at the Whanganui museum and the statue was purchased from an Australian supplier in Melbourne by Wellington's Superintendent Isaac Featherston.

Next stop on the tour was the statue of Te Keepa Te Rangihiwinui, also known as Major Kemp, who led Maori soldiers on behalf of the government in the battle of Moutoa Island.

"This monument is very rare in that it didn't cost anybody anything except for the stonemason who made it,"said Mr Dalton.

He told how Major Kemp's sister, Rora Hakaraia, who commissioned the monument was unhappy with the work, saying it was not a good likeness and the panels depicting the battles fought by her brother "looked like ants".

"She refused to pay for it and was taken to court by monumental masons Frank Harris & Co, but the judge ruled in favour of Rora Hakaraia, so the monument was never paid for," Mr Dalton said.

The WWI monument to Maori soldiers was next on the itinerary.

Mr Dalton told how soldier Herewini Whakarua, whose marble likeness stands at the top of the shellrock obelisk, was the son of a church minister from Waitotara.

"He fought on all the battlefields of WWI and died after he was wounded in France in January 1918. It is believed he made an agreement with his father to take his place if he was killed in battle and his father did sign up," said Mr Dalton.

The Tour of Duty concluded with a visit to the monuments in Queen's Park - the War Memorial Centre, the 1893 lion monument, the Veterans' Steps and the cenotaph.