Messines Bell at the National War Memorial

Messines Bell at the National War Memorial

In the late 1920s, Wellington-based public servants contributed to ‘Messines’, a bell in the carillon of the National War Memorial dedicated to the fallen. This memorial was widely promoted throughout the public service, including in the Railways and Post and Telegraph departments.

Public Service Commissioner Paul Verschaffelt responded enthusiastically to a suggestion that public servants might ‘reserve’ a bell, immediately calling together representatives of his departments to discuss the proposal. The outcome was that a ‘government department’ bell, No. 10, was reserved and departments were advised of the amount they had been allocated. These sums were based on the number of employees, with staff asked to make a contribution linked to the size of their salaries. An advertisement in the New Zealand Railways Magazine suggested that those on salaries of less than £295 donate one shilling and those on more than £295 two shillings. The total subscriptions raised ranged from £1 or £2 for the smallest departments to £10 or £20 for larger ones. The Railways Department raised over £79 while the Post and Telegraph Department, which had initially sought its own bell, contributed £105. 

The inscription on the bell reads:

To the memory of the members of
the Government Departments in
Wellington, who lost their lives
in the Great War, 1914-18

“We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields.” - MacRae.

Presented by
Officers of the Government
Departments in Wellington

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