2 Nov 2018

War memorial banner sheds light on unrecorded sacrifices

3:32 pm on 2 November 2018

A banner has been unfurled on the steps of Nelson Cathedral in the lead-up to events marking the end of World War I a century ago.

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Ryan Oliver (foreground) is a former cadet and son of a retired serviceman who says remembering war is more relevant today than ever before. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

The 10m Wall of Remembrance banner includes the names of the 3500 people from the region who served in World War I.

It also acknowledges their sacrifice, a Nelson historian said.

Karen Stade was among those to unfurl the banner, and said the research that went into creating it revealed some surprises.

"There's been a whole lot of families that we didn't know had served, or numbers of the same family who served, and so it's given a more balanced picture of the number of people who served."

Peter Millward, who worked on the master list of men and women from the Nelson province, said today's unfurling of the banner was a fitting finale to four years of World War I commemorations.

"It's been an amazing piece of community engagement. We started with a Wall of Remembrance at the Nelson Provincial Museum in 2014 and at that point we had 2500 names on the wall.

"But very quickly families were coming in and saying, 'oh yes, there's my Great Uncle Darc, how come you haven't got his brother Ross on the wall?'"

Mr Millward said it triggered more robust research.

"By the time we reinstated it at Founders Park [in Nelson] we were close to up to 3000 names, and now - so help me God - we're over 3500 names."

He said it had been a process of discovery, including finding out more about the men who died.

Mr Millward said a group of volunteer researchers travelled around the province gathering names from every small memorial.

"They went around all of the tiny little memorials, collecting the names of those who'd died. The net result is that we now know there are 80 names missing from the Nelson cenotaph."

He said they had managed to persuade the city council and the local RSA that the face of cenotaph should be replaced.

"What that's going to do is really quite amazing. It's going to bring together the names of brothers who died, who've never been on the same memorial, ever."

Mr Millward said as World War I commemorations draw to a close, remembering war was still relevant.

"It does when you realise the horrendous impact that war had on a tight-knit little region like Nelson province."

The banner will remain on display until after the Armistice centenary on 11 November.

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