ALTON WWI SOLDIERS
The Relocation of our War Memorial
ANZAC Day 2014 in Alton was a great day for the 500 people in attendance, and a fitting tribute for the 14 soldiers on our War Memorial who died in WWI, & the 7 who died in WWII with New Zealand on their sleeve and Alton in their heart.
When the Alton Hall Committee decided to move the 16 tonne War Memorial in 2013 from its origonal site in the old Alton School grounds to a beautifully landscaped section next to the Alton Coronation Hall, we had the goal of ANZAC Day to get it completed. We worked hard to reach it, and the reward was all the people who turned up on Friday 25 April to be there with us, some wearing their grandfathers medals, bringing old photos, old stories, & making new memories for Alton.
We were so fortunate to have a full military service with eight soldiers from Taranaki Platoon, West Coast Company, 5/7 Battalion Royal NZ Infantry Regiment, Abe Abraham on the Flag, two members of Wanganui Platoon, Army Cadet Corps & their Sergeant, Nine members of the 5th Wellington, West Coast and Taranaki Pipes and Drums, members of the Patea Maori Club, Karen Cook, Ross Dunlop, Chester Borrows, & Catherine Carter did the most beautiful Last Post on the bugle. We had two official photographers-Kevin Bone of Hawera & Paul Marcroft of Marton. Their photos can be seen on the Alton Coronation Hall facebook page.
So many people helped the Alton Coronation Hall Committee to make their dream of moving the 92 year, 18 tonne war memorial come true, in particular we want to thank 3 local business men whose help we couldn’t have done without: Steve Watson, Garry Hooper & Murray Phillips.
The stories of our local men who went to war, bring them to life. Ian Fowlie told me what Dick Armstrong told him years ago, how back in 1915 George Mitchell walked into the Armstrong house one night & offered his farm to them for sale, as he was going to War. Dick’s father was reluctant to take the 60 acres of newly cleared land from a man off to fight for their country, & said he would sell it back to him on his return, George said ‘I don’t think I’ll be back’. And he wasn’t. He was killed in Ypres, Belgium in 1917.
George’s friend, Bill McDiarmid also enlisted at about the same time. They were both hardworking, but social men, they would have enjoyed many nights at the Alton Hotel. They were in the Kakaramea Tug of War Team, that won numerous prizes in the province before it went into recess at the start of the War. Bill also never returned. He was badly wounded, and wandered off from the convalescent camp he was sent to in England, never to be seen again.
The reason why Alton decided to build a monument only for their men that died in WWI, and not for the ones that returned, has been lost in the years that have passed since 1922, when it was first unveiled. Maybe it was because it was 14 men who didn’t return, a huge number for a small village, or maybe they did intend to put an Roll of Honour Board in the Hall or the School, but never did. It has been difficult, but I think I have found most of the men that went to World War I from Alton & returned, the ones that didn’t return have a star by their name: