Awapuni NZMC war memorial

Awapuni race course war memorial fountain Awapuni race course war memorial fountain Awapuni race course war memorial fountain Awapuni race course war memorial fountain Awapuni race course war memorial fountain Awapuni race course war memorial fountain

The memorial fountain at Awapuni Racecourse in Palmerston North is dedicated to members of the New Zealand Medical and Ambulance Corps. A stone plaque on the memorial begins with the the Latin motto of the Medical Corps, meaning ‘faithful in adversity’:

In Arduis Fidelis

In Proud Memory

of the Officers and Men of the

New Zealand Medical Corps

who were trained on the grounds 1914-1918

and who sacrificed their lives for the Empire

History of the site

During the First World War the racecourse was home to one of New Zealand’s largest training camps, including the Awapuni medical camp which operated from October 1915 to February 1919. A medical programme was initially run at Trentham camp in Upper Hutt but this was swiftly replaced by Awapuni, which would remain the sole medical camp until the end of the war. Recruits took part in a 16-week programme which included four weeks of hands-on hospital experience, and adopted the unusual but practical arrangement of sleeping in the racecourse grandstands. At any given time there were 350-400 army medical personnel in training for a variety of roles, such as stretcher-bearers and hospital ship staff.

Design and unveiling of the memorial

In a 1928 newspaper article the Manawatu Club noted their intention to erect a memorial to the men of the Medical Corps who died in the war, and described the design of the memorial as follows:

It will take the form of a large concrete water tank in the shape of the Ambulance Red Cross, with a cairn built up in the centre with blocks of New Zealand marble, and an inscription thereon dedicating the memorial to those who never returned. […] The tank will be ornamental and useful and will hold about 60,000 gallons of water, and water will run from the top of the cairn down the blocks of marble into the tank.

Governor General Sir Charles Fergusson unveiled the completed memorial on 3 December 1929 in front of a large crowd. Among those attending were many former Medical Corps personnel, who took the opportunity to hold a reunion after the unveiling.

Restoration and re-dedication

Over the years the memorial gradually fell into disrepair, prompting a two-year restoration project beginning in 2014 and coinciding with the centenary of the First World War. The restoration was led by the Royal New Zealand Army Medical Corps, together with Palmerston North City Council and the Awapuni Racing Centre. It included the removal of the chain-link fence that had previously enclosed the memorial, and new landscaping and planting.

The newly restored memorial was rededicated at a special ceremony held on 20 October 2016, which included a formal military service. Speakers at the event included Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith and restoration project leader Lieutenant Colonel Darren Beck, former commanding officer of 2nd Health Support Battalion (NZ) and Regimental Colonel of the Royal New Zealand Army Medical Corps.

Sources

MANAWATU CLUB, Evening Post, volume CVI, issue 36, 21 August 1928

N.Z. MEDICAL CORPS, Auckland Star, volume LX, issue 274, 19 November 1929

Watch a video of the 2016 re-dedication ceremony here.

Community contributions

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Linda

Posted: 03 Sep 2012

Just noted that it is reported in Papers Past that this memorial was erected to remember the NZMC who died in First World War. refer to A. H. Daroux, Photo. WAR MEMORIAL ON AWAPUNI RACECOURSE.—Erected to the memory of members of the New Zealand Medical Corps who lost their lives in the Great War. It will be unveiled by the Governor-General (Sir Charles. Vergusson) when he visits- Palmerston North on 3rd December (Evening Post, 19 November 1929). Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://beta.natlib.govt.nz/records/19340107