Christchurch war memorial

Christchurch war memorial

Christchurch war memorial (detail)

Christchurch war memorial (detail)

Christchurch war memorial by William Trethewey. It was unveiled near the Christchurch Cathedral in June 1937.

From The sorrow and the pride (1990):

'According to [Trethewey's] son, at lunch one day he took out a pencil and sketched a possible war memorial. The sketch was taken to the architect G. A. Hart for the firm Hart and Reese, and together they composed a detailed design....a central cross more than 15 metres high, on the base a group of six figures representing resignation, sacrifice, protection, peace, youth and justice. Above was the figure of victory breaking the sword of battle....

‘Trethewey spent much of the next three years bringing the vision to reality. The stone was obtained from remnants of Portland stone left over from the Auckland museum. As for the six bronze figures, Trethewey had to design and make them full size in clay, then box them up and send them to Burtons foundry in London for casting. Trethewey himself went to London to oversee the process, where he was given support and hospitality by the former governor-general, Lord Bledisloe....He was paid five shillings an hour for his work, plus a bonus at the end of £500.

‘As he worked on the design, Trethewey adapted it. The figure of protection was replaced by one of valour, the figures of resignation and sacrifice were united into one. The figure at the top became larger and more dramatic. When it was complete, the balance of forces and the vivacity of the sculptural work made this without doubt New Zealand's outstanding war memorial statue. At the base of the the figure of sacrifice, a mother with bowed head and outstretched arms and a face of both love and resignation. On the next level on the left is the figure of youth, perhaps the child of the mother. His hand is raised up with a torch, his hair swept back, his face looks upward, and the eye is irresistibly carried towards the cross on the top of the monument. One is reminded of the hopes if youth sacrificed to war. On the other side is another male figure, older, sterner, looking back down. It is the armoured figure of a knight - St George is suggested. Between the two male figures are two women - a younger and very beautiful woman carrying an olive branch in one hand and a dove clutched to her bosom in the other. She is the symbol of peace. She looks beautiful, but also fragile and vulnerable. The other is the figure of justice, an older woman, more impassive, with veiled eyes looking straight ahead and in her hands the scales and sword of justice. Finally the grouping of statues builds up to the dramatic angel about to break the sword of war. Originally she was to be the figure of victory, but in the end it was decided that it would be inappropriate to call her this. She is again a beautiful woman, naked to the waist, and the upward thrust of her eyes and wings are counterbalanced by the downward reach of her legs and the scabbard. The architecture and sheer balance of forces in the design is superb. Youth's outstretched arm on the left is paralleled by valour's flag and lance on the right; the angel's arms reaching heavenward are played off against the earthward reach of sacrifice at the base. All the tension created by the statuary culminates in the curve of the bent sword - one expects it to snap; and that tension in turn is balanced by the cross above....

‘[E]very statue was modelled upon a specific person; peace, for example, was Trethewey's daughter, Pauline; youth was one of his workmen, Bob Hampton.'

Anzac Day, 2010

Cathedral Square, Christchurch on Anzac Day 2010 Cathedral Square, Christchurch on Anzac Day 2010 Cathedral Square, Christchurch on Anzac Day 2010 Cathedral Square, Christchurch on Anzac Day 2010

Images from the dawn ceremony in Cathedral Square on Anzac Day 2010.

SiteStyleOrnamentationUnveiling Date No of Dead
ChurchCrossSix figures, soldier19370

Community contributions

4 comments have been posted about Christchurch war memorial

What do you know?

Joanne Latham

Posted: 02 Jan 2017

I have a China plate depicting the memorial made in Hanley England by L and Sons. Anyone know anything about them?

angela murray

Posted: 08 Nov 2015

the statue of youth is my grandfather bob Hampton known as Robert joseph Hampton we was such a great man and grandfather


Posted: 28 Jul 2012

The iconic Christchurch Cathedral is the image that rellay lingers in my mind of this week's devastation. But I have faith that with the strong support and love from all the people of New Zealand the people of Christchurch will find the strength and courage to rebuild their beautiful city and feel proud of it and safe to live there once again. My mind has reflected on the earthquake that flattened Napier in the 1930s and how it is now such a thriving, popular town to visit and live. At the moment everyone is feeling the raw pain, loss and sadness. There will be years of graft and tears to get Christchurch back again, but I have faith that it will happen.Sarah @ Catching the Magic recently posted..


Posted: 25 Jul 2008

This is actually called the Citizens' War Memorial