Birkenhead War Memorial Park

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Governor-General Lord Cobham formally opened the Birkenhead War Memorial Park on 19 April 1958. The park was more than 66 acres in extent and included playing fields, a grandstand and a sports pavilion. There were brick memorial gates at the main entrance. The memorial shrine just inside the entrance was designed to serve as the foyer of a planned community hall. It housed the Birkenhead roll of honour, which listed the names of 261 men from the First World War, including 31 dead, and 331 names from the Second World War, including 28 dead. The service names from the Second World War included three nursing sisters: L.M. Giles, S.M. Macdonald and V.M. Town.

On Anzac Day 1961 a Book of Remembrance was unveiled in the shrine. This listed the names of 66 men who had given their lives in the world wars. It was housed in a glass-topped wooden cabinet made of teak from (according to one account) HMS Achilles or (according to another) from HMS Hercules and HMS Philomel. Bronze plaques underneath the cabinet included the profiles of representatives of the four services.

The long-planned Birkenhead War Memorial Hall was opened behind the shrine on 25 April 1970. Today, the hall is a recreation centre.

The Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s First World War roll of honour is also displayed in the shrine. This lists 73 employees of the company’s Chelsea sugar works who answered the call (11 deaths).

Sources: ‘A Grand Sight on a Grand Site’, Waitemata News, 6/3/1957; ‘Foundation Stone Laid at Birkenhead Shrine’, NZ Herald, 20/1/1958; Official Opening of the War Memorial Park and Unveiling of Roll of Honour, Birkenhead, 1958; ‘Birkenhead War Memorial is Opened’, Auckland Star, 19/4/1958; ‘Official Opening of Birkenhead War Memorial Park’, Waitemata News, 23/4/1958; ‘Tribute to Fallen: Memorial Emblem Dedication’, NZ Herald, 22/4/1961; ‘Birkenhead’s Book of Remembrance’, North Shore Times, 24/5/1961; Muriel Fisher and Wenman J. Hilder, Birkenhead, Birkenhead, 1969, pp. 35-7, 43, 83; ‘War Memorial Hall Open after Quarter of a Century’, North Shore Times Advertiser, 23/4/1970, p. 3; ‘Another Important Facility for Birkenhead’, ibid., p. 11; ‘Memorial Shrine Not to be Moved’, NZ Herald, 25/2/1970; ‘Birkenhead’s Most (In)Valuable Asset’, North Shore Times Advertiser, 22/5/1973, p. 24; Margaret McClure, The Story of Birkenhead, Birkenhead, 1987, p. 118.

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