Sunday, March 6, 2016

War Memorials in New Zealand

WAR MEMORIALS IN NEW ZEALAND
Elegant Unpretentious Sublime Monuments of Remembrance
Musings of a Veteran
By
VIKRAM KARVE

We (my wife and I) visited New Zealand recently.

After two long flights by Korean Air – the first from Mumbai to Incheon (Seoul) of around 9 hours duration – then – a wait at Incheon Airport for 5 hours – followed by the Incheon Auckland flight of almost 12 hours – we reached Auckland International Airport New Zealand at 0800 Hrs (8 AM) local time on the 23rd of December 2015 – where our daughter was waiting for us with a friend who had brought his car along.

Since our Hotel ‘check-in’ was as 1400 Hrs (2 PM) – we decided to drive around Auckland and see the sights.

I fell in love with Auckland immediately.

From the aircraft we had seen sailboats below in the harbor – and we drove past these too – no wonder Auckland is called “city of sails”.

The city was very clean – the air was pure – the traffic very disciplined – and the people very courteous – and it was a pleasure to drive around and visit various places – an uplifting experience driving on the superb roads, winding their way in the hilly terrain amidst on the picturesque scenery.

Our magnanimous “host” took us on a drive through Auckland – and then we visited Mission Bay Beach – where we walked on the beach in the warm sun.

Then we drove down to St Heliers which has a magnificent Seafront and breathtaking Beach amidst green foliage.

Here, at St. Heliers, I discovered the Achilles Memorial at Achilles Point commemorating the victory of HMS Achilles in the Battle of River Plate in World War 2. I was familiar with this warship – since – HMS Achilles was later transferred to the Indian Navy and commissioned as INS Delhi.

I discovered this “war memorial” by sheer chance – even our “host” who was driving us around did not know about it – and had brought us here since this was a scenic seaside spot and beach.

Achilles was originally built for the Royal Navy, and was commissioned as HMS Achilles on 10 October 1933. She would serve with the Royal Navy's New Zealand Division from 31 March 1937 onwards. Approximately 60 per cent of her crew was from New Zealand.

The Achilles Point Memorial commemorates the gallant performance of New Zealand Navy Sailors (and the supreme sacrifice of 4 martyrs) on HMS Achilles in the Battle of the River Plate in 1939 and in the South Atlantic in World War 2.

Later, after the creation of the Royal New Zealand Navy, HMS Achilles was transferred to the Royal New Zealand Navy in September 1941 and recommissioned HMNZS Achilles.

HMNZS Achilles was returned to the Royal Navy at the end of the Second World War.

In 1948 – HMS Achilles was sold to the Royal Indian Navy and recommissioned as HMIS Delhi.

In 1950 – the warship was renamed INS Delhi and remained in service until decommissioned on 30 June 1978. Most senior citizen Indian Navy Veterans (including those of my vintage) must have seen INS Delhi in service.

On 16 January 1940, in order to recognize and honour the role the New Zealand Crewed Ship HMS Achilles had played in the Battle of the River Plate, the first major naval battle of World War 2, which lead to the defeat of the German Cruiser Graf Spee, the Auckland City Council resolved to name the tip of the headland on the western side of the Tamaki River as Achilles Point. This vantage point enjoys commanding views of the Pacific Ocean over the Hauraki Gulf – and of Auckland City too.

On 13 December 1940 – a memorial was built at Achilles Point to commemorate the victory of HMS Achilles. Its structure took the form of a ship’s bow. The Achilles Point memorial plaque has the inscription:

“This Reserve is dedicated to commemorate the gallant performance of HMS Achilles and the bravery of her Captain, Officers and Ship's Company in the victorious naval battle fought in the South Atlantic off the River Plate on December 13th 1939”

There is also a plaque in remembrance of the four Naval Ratings (Sailors) who sacrificed their lives during the Battle of the River Plate.

Here are a few pictures of the Achilles Memorial which I clicked on the 23rd of December 2015. 

ACHILLES POINT ST. HELIERS AUCKLAND

Achilles Memorial

Commemorative Plaque - Achilles Point

Inscription

Remembrance

Achilles Ship's Crest

Engraving HMS Achilles

Sea View From Memorial

View of Memorial with Pacific Ocean in Background

Achilles Point Commemorative Plaque

Parnell Rose Gardens Auckland

Next morning – we went on a morning walk from our hotel to the nearby Parnell Rose Gardens (Dove Myer Robinson Park) – and – we came across two war memorials in the garden.

Korean War Memorial

Inscription

Netherlands Memorial

Simple Monument in Tranquil Surroundings


NEWMARKET AUCKLAND  

In the evening – we walked down to Newmarket – a posh market of Auckland – and – even there – I noticed a memorial in remembrance of soldiers who had laid down their lives for the nation. 

Newmarket Memorial




PAPANUI GARDEN CHRISTCHURCH 

On the 25th of December 2015 – we flew down to Christchurch – and – on an evening stroll in Papanui – where our hotel was located – I discovered a memorial in the neighbourhood garden.

Papanui War Memorial Monument
Plaque

As I traveled in New Zealand – I saw that every neighbourhood/borough/village has a garden – and in that garden – there is a sublime war memorial – on which are engraved the names of martyrs from the neighbourhood/borough/village.

These memorials to commemorate the supreme sacrifice of martyrs are simple, sober, solemn and dignified. There is no display of vulgar “jingoism” – and – these elegant unpretentious monuments of remembrance have an ambience of silence, dignity and solemnity about them.


AUCKLAND WAR MEMORIAL MUSEUM

In addition to these Spartan yet Dignified Memorials – I was fortunate to visit the magnificent “Auckland War Memorial Museum”

Completed in 1929 on the highest point on the Auckland Domain – the Auckland War Memorial Museum is an impressive structure – with its imposing neoclassical temple capped with an impressive copper-and-glass dome – dominates the Auckland Domain and is a prominent part of the Auckland skyline – especially when viewed from the Harbour.

After World War 2 – the building was extended to encompass war memorials for the over 4,000 Aucklanders who lost their lives in the Second World War. The semicircular extension at the rear of the building was opened in 1960 to provide space for the “World War 2 Hall of Memories” which now also encompasses the names of those martyred in subsequent conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

I shall write a detailed post on the Auckland War Memorial Museum later in my Blog – with pictures of the war memorial, commemorative halls and military exhibits.

For now – here are two pictures of the Auckland War Memorial Museum. 

Auckland War Memorial Museum
Auckland War Memorial Museum - World War 2 Hall of Memories

Seeing these war memorial monuments had a lasting impression on me – whether small or large in size – each memorial was a sublime epitome of reverence, elegance and dignity.


Food for Thought

With the exception of the early New Zealand Wars (1843–1872) – the other wars in which New Zealanders participated were fought far away from its shores – South African War, World War 1 and World War 2 – and – even the subsequent UN Peacekeeping Missions in which the New Zealand Defence Forces participated were in distant lands.

For many years now – New Zealand is one of the most peaceful nations in the world.

India’s population is almost 300 times more than New Zealand.

Size-wise, India is 12 times larger than New Zealand.

India has one of the largest Armed Forces in the world, especially the huge Army.

Compared to India – the size of New Zealand’s Armed Forces (Army Navy Air Force) is miniscule.

India has faced many wars and conflicts – and – there is always some Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) due to terrorism/militancy/insurgency going on due to which soldiers are martyred quite frequently.

In contrast – New Zealand is a peaceful country.

If you exclude the early New Zealand Wars, there have hardly been any direct wars on New Zealand territory – however – New Zealand made a significant contribution to Allied Forces in World Wars 1 and 2 and Peacekeeping Operations later by deploying its Armed Forces abroad.

However – one thing is evident: New Zealand respects its Martyrs – soldiers, sailors and airmen who laid down their lives fighting under the New Zealand Flag – the 900 War Memorials located throughout the length and breadth of New Zealand – in each neighbourhood, borough, village, town and city – bear testimony to the reverence accorded to the military.

Yes – there are more than 900 War Memorials in New Zealand – meticulously recorded in the New Zealand Memorials Register which has historical information and images and accurate locations with maps for over 900 memorials throughout the country.

I hope India emulates New Zealand in this regard to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of our military men in uniform – and we too have similar simple, sublime and elegant war memorials in each village, engraved with the names of martyrs from that village, as a remembrance to martyred soldiers, sailors and airmen who perform the supreme sacrifice and lay down their lives for the nation.


References: 

'New Zealand Wars memorials', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/new-zealand-wars-memorials, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012

'Memorials register', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/the-memorials-register, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 19-Nov-2013

'NZ memorials register map', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/map/memorials-register-map, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012 

'HMS Achilles memorial, St Heliers', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/photo/hms-achilles-memorial-st-heliers, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 3-Jul-2014

Auckland War Memorial Museum, URL: https://www.aucklandmuseum.com/about-us/history-of-auckland-museum


I have written this travelogue based on my own personal experience during my visit to New Zealand in December 2015/January 2016 – of course – I have referred to References cited above for cross-checking and background information. 

However – all the photographs in the travelogue have been clicked by me on my smartphone.

VIKRAM KARVE
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