Petone railway station war memorial

Petone railway station war memorial

A large crowd gathers by the flagpole outside the Petone railway station and workshops during Anzac Day commemorations in 1916.

On the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landings, 25 April 1916, a commemorative flagpole made from kauri and Australian hardwood – symbolising ‘the unity of Australian and New Zealand railwaymen in peace and war’ – was unveiled outside the Petone railway station and workshops. Railway workers at Hornsby in New South Wales had proposed that railwaymen on each side of the Tasman exchange their national flags to honour the Anzac connection.

By this time it was said that up to 2000 New Zealand Railways employees had enlisted and at least 37 had lost their lives. Prominent among them was Major Norman Frederick Hastings, a 36-year-old fitter and foreman at the Petone workshops who had served in the South African War. Hastings assumed command of the 6th (Manawatu) Squadron of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment during the August offensive at Gallipoli and died of wounds received on 9 August 1915 during the battle for Chunuk Bair. He was posthumously awarded the DSO and appointed a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur (France) for his outstanding leadership. It is thought that his workmates' desire to acknowledge his death was another key motivation for the erection of the Petone memorial.

The large banner in the centre of the scene depicts a soldier and carries the words, ‘The absent minded beggar’, referring to an 1899 poem by Rudyard Kipling which was set to music by Sir Arthur Sullivan and used as a patriotic fundraising song during the South African War.

See another image of this memorial unveiling.

In the years following the unveiling of the flagstaff, Petone workshop staff lowered the flag whenever they learned that one of their workmates had died. Their colleagues at the East Town Railway Workshop in Whanganui held similar ceremonies. 

The workshops and station building have since been demolished; the flagpole was partially restored in 1995 and  refurbished in 2004.

Petone railway station memorial today

Memorial plaque Memorial plaque Memorial plaque Memorial plaque Memorial plaqueMemorial plaque

On Anzac Day 2016 a ceremony was held at Petone railway station to mark the centenary of the 1916 event. In addition to speeches, the laying of wreaths and the raising of an Australian red ensign (as in 1916), a replica wooden roll of honour board was unveiled in the railway station. This listed the names of 10 employees of the Petone workshops who lost their lives in the First World War, and replaced a similar board which was lost in the early 2000s. Following the early-morning ceremony, the restored steam locomotive Passchendaele (AB 608) hauled a train of First World War-era carriages on excursion trips between Wellington, Petone and Taita stations (and later in the afternoon, between Wellington and Paekākāriki).

The Petone Anzac Day centenary programme, which was organised by the rail operator KiwiRail, supported by the Rail Heritage Trust, the Rail and Maritime Transport Union, local authorities, the RNZRSA and Steam Incorporated, also featured the publication of a booklet, New Zealand railwaymen at war 1914-18. An historic film trailer was shown at the Light House cinemas in Petone, Pāuatahanui and Wellington in the weeks before Anzac Day. 

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Gerald Davidson

Posted: 07 Jul 2013

The ANZAC Memorial Flagstaff, Petone Railway Station. By Gerald Davidson.


Extracted from: 'Til the day breaks: World War 1 Memorials in Petone by Gerald Davidson & Sherril McNabb. 2006.


In the first months of World War One, the practice was established, at the Hornsby Railway Depot, New South Wales, of providing a public send-off for railway workers joining up for military service with the Australian forces.


For the fifth send-off set down to be held in March 1916 the Hornsby Railway Patriotic Committee decided that the railway station would be decorated with flags symbolic of the Empire, the Union Jack, the Commonwealth of Australia and New Zealand flags. But rather than purchasing a New Zealand flag to complete the display, an idea was put forward by Guard Tom Stone and adopted, that there be a exchange of flags between Hornsby and a depot in New Zealand, with the ceremonial unfurling of both at the same time, the purpose of which was to signify the comradeship and unity of purpose of Australians and New Zealand railwaymen at Gallipoli. Mr J. S. Spurway, the Secretary to the Chief Commissioner for NSW Railways, then wrote to the General Manager of New Zealand Railways, Mr. E H. Hiley on 25 November 1915, at the request of the Hornsby Committee, with details included of the proposal prepared by Guard Stone. Spurway suggested a depot in either Wellington or Auckland. Hiley gave the request his full support. On the recommendation of Mr. Geo. Troup, Office Engineer in the Chief Civil Engineer’s Office, the responsibility for the New Zealand part was given to the Petone Workshops, a task unanimously adopted at a mass meeting held at Petone on 17 January 1916. The Petone Railway Patriotic Committee under the supervision of Mr. J. Sherwin, with Mr. R. Moore as Secretary, in association with Mr. R. H. Simons (Stationmaster, Petone), organised the details of the event. Plans for a ceremonial, nearly 60 foot, flagstaff were quickly prepared by the Chief Civil Engineer’s Office. It was to go on a spare piece of land at the south end of Petone Station. (D.E. plan no. 3765). Workshops staff built the pole, with fittings, symbolically using NZ Kauri (top-piece) and Australian Hardwood while the erection work was handled by the Foreman of Works, Kaiwarra. On very little leeway the flagpole was to have been ready for use on Saturday 4 March. However on account of the Australian flag not being ready and a clash with the embarkation of the 10th Reinforcements on that date, it was decided to postpone the ceremony to 25 April, ANZAC Day. Railway records show while the pole had been made for the earlier date, the erection work took place later and was recorded as completed on 8 April. (1)


An enormous crowd was on hand at the Railway Station at 3.30pm for the Petone part of the proceedings. Hundreds of people journeyed from out of town. Making up the numbers were around 1,200 Petone school children holding miniature Union Jacks. Amongst the many dignitaries present at the Petone ceremony were the Rt. Hon. W. F. Massey (Prime Minister), Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Ward (Deputy PM), Hon. Sir Francis Dillon Bell (Leader of the Legislative Council), Hon. W. H. Herris (Minister of Railways), Mr. T. M. Wilford MP (Hutt), Mr H. Baldwin (Mayor of Lower Hutt), Mr. J. W. McEwan (Mayor of Petone, who presided), Mr. J. P. Luke (Mayor of Wellington) and Mr E. H. Hiley (General Manager of Railways). Mr T. Stone Jnr (son of Guard Stone) of the NSW Railway Department represented NSW railwaymen. Other dignitaries in attendance were the Ministers of Public Works, Internal Affairs, Customs, Agriculture, Education, and Native Affairs and many borough and city councillors. However the Governor, the Earl of Liverpool, because of another engagement, was not able to be present. A Guard of Honour for the Ministerial party was provided by local Cadet and Territorial Corps who had earlier marched along Jackson Street from the Recreation Ground accompanied by the 50 strong Twelfth Reinforcement Band (Trentham Camp Band.) As an aside Hiley were so keen to gain the involvement of the latter that he personally had laid on a special train as the scheduled service from Trentham would make their participation difficult. Ranged in front of the specially built official platform decorated with ferns, pot plants and recruiting banners were a number of Petone men who had fought at Gallipoli and were invalided home. The curious starting time was fixed to suit the Minister of Railways on the request of Hiley. Several photographs of the event taken by Percy Godber are held in the Alexander Turnbull Library. The honour of unfurling the presentation Australian red ensign from Hornsby on the ANZAC Memorial Flagstaff went to the Prime Minister. A New Zealand flag, a presentation of the Railways Department, was unfurled by Sir Joseph Ward. Both flags were unfurled from the crossbar of the flagstaff. A large Union Jack, a presentation of the officers of the Workshops, the Railway Station, and the Petone Railways Stores had already been unfurled on the main pole, but was dipped and re-hoisted by the Minister of Railways : the latter additional flags were made in the Workshops Trimmers Department. A feature of the proceedings was the singing of the massed school children under the charge of Mr Foster of the Petone District High School. Speeches given emphasised the heroic sacrifice at Gallipoli. (2)


A similar ceremony was held in Hornsby, NSW, where the New Zealand flag made by the Petone Workshops Trimmers Department was raised by the daughter of the NSW Governor, Miss Adeline Strickland on the station flagpole adjacent to No. 4 platform (the main platform). Other dignitaries present were : The Governor of NSW, His Excellency Sir Gerald Strickland, Mr. Hoyle (Minister of Railways), Hon. Jos. Cook (Leader of the Federal Opposition), Hon. Wm. Thompson MLA, Mr. Frank O’Connor of Hawera (representing the railwaymen of Petone), Councillor P. A. James (President of the Hornsby Shire), Mr. Tom Stone (Chairman of the Hornsby Depot organising committee) and Mr. J. Glynn (Stationmaster, Hornsby). A large crowd was on hand for the event, including many children from the public school with the guard of honour some 250 strong provided by the Chatsworth cadets. As a souvenir of a occasion a special poem was composed. Because of a delay the Hornsby commemoration in fact began late. (3)


The Petone event appears to be the first ANZAC Day observance in New Zealand attended by members of the Government.


In the evening a religious service for those who fell at Gallipoli was held at the Lyceum (Palace) Theatre, followed by what was termed “a patriotic meeting” to raise morale, presided over by the Petone Mayor, Mr. J. W. McEwan.


A special fundraising carnival was held the day before in aid of the local wounded soldiers fund at the Petone Recreation Ground.


ANZAC services at the Railway Station, apart from that of 1918, then went into abeyance. In July 1934 the Borough Council sought to buy the Flagstaff for re-erection elsewhere in Petone on account of its lack of use. Railways gave its agreement and suggested a price of L2 in September. The proposal lapsed in October on the death of Mayor David McKenzie. A change of tack next year saw the Council seek the Flagpole Reserve of 6 perches for beautification purposes. Railways agreed to a year by year lease on a peppercorn rental from 1 September 1935. A report to the Borough Council in April 1936 led to the planting of the Reserve’s pohutukawa trees. The pole remained a Railways responsibility. Grounds maintenance of the area is currently covered by the Hutt City Council. ANZAC observances were again held in 1953 and became an annual event continuing to 1973. A base to hold wreaths was made in 1962. A series of small pamphlets were produced by Railways’ Publicity and Advertising Branch between 1959 and 1961 for the annual observance, for the 50th anniversary of the ANZAC landing (1965) and for the 50th anniversary of the Flagstaff (1966). In 1961 the General Manager of Railways, Mr. A.T. Gandell wrote to his counterpart in NSW, the Commissioner for Railways, Mr. N. McCuster, pointing out that the “[Petone] flagpole and continuing ceremony is the outcome of a suggestion by your railway staff at Hornsby Depot”. This was the last official contact between the two railway departments on the ANZAC Memorial, though the Australian High Commission continued to be represented at the annual observance. In 1994 the Petone Community Board proposed moving the pole to Memorial Park at the other end of Petone : adverse public reaction led to the plan being abandoned. An ANZAC Day ceremony, was held the following year using a replica of the original Australian ensign . The original flag is now housed at the > Waiouru Army Museum. A small ceremony was held on ANZAC Day 2005, just after dawn, to mark the 90th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing. An observance is planned for 2006. (4)


The ANZAC Memorial Flagstaff appears to be the only World War One memorial in this form and appears to have just missed the distinction of being the first memorial erected in New Zealand.


The Petone Railway Workshops were one of several large industries in Petone declared essential war industries. Amongst the war equipment manufactured there were military transport and machine guns. This was additional to railway work. The Workshops also faced problems caused by tradesmen enlisting. Overtime to the tune of 15 hours a week was being worked to just to keep up in December 1915. There was a great pride in the war effort : a march of Petone railway workers wearing working clothes in Wellington to show off the first military wagons completed and to raise money for the Patriotic Fund was held in August 1914.


Other essential Petone industries were the Gear Meatworks and the Petone Woolen Mills. Thirty seven New Zealand railwaymen lost their lives at Gallipoli, the most prominent of whom was South African War veteran Major Norman Frederick Hastings, DSO, 11/61, of 83 Hutt Road, Petone, employed at the Petone Workshops as a fitter, with the Wellington Mounted Rifles, who died at sea on or about 12 August from of wounds received at Chunuk Bair 9 August 1915. He was 35 years old. His death was reported in New Zealand on 26 April 1916. He is buried in Embarkation Pier Cemetery, Gallipoli. His grave is unmarked. His name is listed on the Special Memorial at B30 with the names of 50 other New Zealanders known to, or believed, to be buried there, under the epitaph “Abide with Me”.


In 1919, after hostilities had ceased, Railways authorised the erection of Honours Boards to commemorate 438 railwaymen who had fallen in active service. Thirteen boards were to be erected : one for each railway district and one for each workshop. The Petone honours board placed on the outside wall of the Pattern Shop, enclosed in glass facing the main road, in February 1920 contained the names of the ten Petone workshop workers killed in action. The Railways Department official list was published on 31 March 1920 with the names of 444 killed or dying of wounds. A Memorial Tablet engraved with 446 names was unveiled in the Railways Head Office on 28 April 1922 by the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. W. F. Massey. All told 7,529 railwaymen saw military service in World War One almost exactly half of the railway workforce. (Appendix )


A Formica plaque, dating from January 1961, denoting the circumstances of 25 April 1916 in Petone can be found facing the Hutt Road and contains the following wording, “This flagstaff was erected to symbolise the unity of Australian and New Zealand Railwaymen in peace and war. Made of Australian hardwood and New Zealand Kauri, it was first used on ANZAC Day 1916 when the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. W. F. Massey, unfurled an Australian flag presented to the railwaymen of New Zealand by the railwaymen of New South Wales.” The Formica plaque replaced an earlier wooden inscription, with similar wording excepting that which referred to the composition of the pole, added in 1953. Originally both were attached to the pole : sometime after 1973 when regular ANZAC services ceased at Petone Station, the Formica sign was removed and placed as if it were a foundation stone towards the Hutt Road frontage. Between it and the pole a large 2 tonne bolder was placed where the base to hold wreaths had been. The significance of the boulder is unknown. In recent years regular use has been made of the pole to fly the Australian red ensign (1995-6) or more latterly the NZ flag. A ceremonial unfurling of the New Zealand flag was held on 3 March 2004 to mark the opening of the new Petone Railway Station undertaken jointly by Greater Wellington Regional Council Chairperson, Cr. Margaret Shields and Hutt Mayor John Terris. Colonel Brian Hall represented the Australian High Commission. In 2005 the NZ flag was flown at half-mast, on three occasions, at Government request, to mark the deaths of several dignitaries : Rt. Hon. David Lange, former Prime Minister, and Rod Donald M.P. and to honour the victims of the London bombing. The previous half-masting was on the death of the Queen Mother in 2002.


The historic Petone Flagstaff was taken down for restoration on Tuesday 1 June 2004 by Swanson Rigging Services Ltd. in a sub-contract to Tony Bartley Architects who in turn had a contract with the Greater Wellington Regional Council and Tranz Rail Ltd. The contract price of $16,000 was made up with contributions from the Greater Wellington Regional Council ($5500), the Hutt City Council ($3000), the Rail Heritage Trust ($2000) and Tranz Rail ($5500). The key work involved the stripping and re-painting, and replacement of rusted and corroded steel fittings with painted stainless steel fixings. The restoration project took several months with the Flagstaff back in place on 8 September 2004. An investigation in March by Spencer Holmes Ltd. had found that the Flagstaff was in bad structural shape. Technically the Petone Flagstaff is not a flagstaff anymore as the cross-pole was removed between 1918 and 1923. It is considered the cross-pole was would have weakened the structural integrity of the main pole and was hence temporary. The cross-pole was located at the mid-point of the NZ Kauri top-piece and was also secured by guy-wires to the ground. It was not added to the restored pole. Exact measurements taken at the time of the 2004 work found the pole to be just over 21 metres above the Hutt Road and just over 17m above the station platform. The height quoted in 1916 is considered to be from the Hutt Road. The purpose of the double wire cone on the pole where the two pieces making the structure are joined is unknown.



1) The Railway Workshops, then adjacent to the Petone Railway Station, were shifted to a new site in Lower Hutt in 1929. The total railway staff at Petone in April 1916 numbered 673. (workshops : 600, management : 30, railway stores : 28, station staff : 15)

(2) The Australian red ensign is a version of the Australian national flag and was the standard flag used for non-official occasions at the time.

(3) Hornsby, established as a railway town, is at the junction of the Northern and North Shore railway lines, and now is in the outskirts of Sydney. By rail Hornsby is 33 km from Sydney Central. In 1916 around 100 were employed by NSW Railways here : 78 of these were in the Hornsby Depot. The Station flag-pole was located by the station gates on Station Street in the front of the station and was removed many years ago. A new pole was provided for the 1916 ceremony. No photographs showing the 1916 pole exist. It is assumed that the new pole had the same height as the original which means it was around 7 metres tall, and a third of the size of the Petone flagstaff.

(4) According to the “Petone Chronicle”, 29 April 1959 the ANZAC Day service at the Petone Flagstaff was revived in 1953 after its “unique history was brought to light during re-painting operations” [for the Royal Visit to Petone]. The Union Jack flown for that occasion appears to have the first flag on the pole since 1918. The 1995 service stemmed from work by the Jackson Street Programme and Petone Lions to repaint the pole and landscape the area. A plaque on the pole marks this work. On the railway side an area of paving was added with a seat dedicated to the late Stan Frost who served with the Railway Operating Group in North Africa during World War Two. It was a comment Frost made on the rundown nature of the Memorial that led to the 1995 work. (The Jackson Street Programme is an association of Petone retailers, trading on Jackson Street.)


Appendix: The Petone Railway Workshops Roll Of Honour.

Dent, G. B. Machinist. 12th Battery, 3rd Brigade, NZ Field Artillery.

* Falla, L. M. Carpenter. N.Z.F.A., 7th Reinforcements.

* Hastings, N. F. Fitter. Wellington Mounted Rifles.

* Henderson, L. A. Fitter. No. 2., Field Corps, N.Z. Engineers.

Kinsella, P. T. Carpenter. 2nd Battery, Wellington Regiment.

McFarlane, D. S. Fitter. Wellington Mounted Rifles.

* Shea, J. M. Casual fitter. 3rd Battery, Wellington Infantry Regiment.

* Wolinck, J. Labourer. Imperial Reservist.

Watson, R. Casual blacksmith. 1st Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment.

Wilson, R. Casual labourer. 2nd Battalion, Wellington Infantry Regiment.


* Source: NZR file R 3 W3281 15/3312 Roll of Honour boards Part 1 (1915-1942) (* Petone resident).( The Petone Roll of Honour was relocated to the new Lower Hutt site in 1929 and displayed in the Social Hall. It is currently in storage)



1. Books Butterworth, Susan. “Petone : a history”. Petone : Petone Borough Council, 1988. Maclean, Chris and Phillips, Jock. “The sorrow and the pride : New Zealand war memorials”. Wellington : Historical Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, 1990. McGibbon, Ian. “Gallipoli : a guide to New Zealand battlefield and memorials”. Auckland : Reed in association with the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, 2004. Metzk, Mari. “Hornsby Shire”. Alexandria, NSW. : Kingsclear, 2004. Pugsley, Christopher. “ANZAC : the New Zealanders at Gallipoli”. Auckland : Moa Beckett, 1995.

2. Periodicals Sharpe, Maureen. “ANZAC Day in New Zealand” in New Zealand Journal of History. vol. 15, no. 2 (Oct. 1981) p. 97-114

3. Newspapers “Cumberland Argus” (NSW), 15.4.1916, 29.4.1916 “Dominion”, 26.4.1916, 2. 5.1922 “Evening Post”, 24.4.1916 ; 25.4.1916 ; 26.4.1916 ; 26.4.1918 ; 25.4.1919 “Hutt News,” 29.4.1953 ; 24.4.1973 ; 2.5.1995 ; 2.9.1995 “New Zealand railway review”, 5.5.1916 “New Zealand Times”, 25.4.1916 ; 26.4.1916 “NZR staff bulletin”, vol. 7, no. 2 (1958) “NSW railway and tramway budget”, 1.3.1916, 1.4.1916, 1.5.1916, 1.6.1916, 1.7.1916 “Sydney Morning Herald, 26.4.1916 “Petone Chronicle”, 26.4.1956 ; 29.4.1959 “Petone Herald”, 2.6.1994, 30.6.1994

4. Pamphlets “Discover Petone” Petone : Petone Historical Society, 1993. “Discover Petone” [Petone : Petone Historical Society], 2003 “Petone, Hutt City” [Lower Hutt] : Hutt City Council, 2000 “Symbol of Anzac” [Wellington]: [Railways] Publicity and Advertising Branch, [1959]. (For ANZAC service, 1959) (Reprinted and updated for 1960 and 1961). “50th anniversary of Anzac”. [Wellington] : Ditto, [1965]. (For ANZAC service, 25 April 1965.) “50th anniversary of Petone Railway Station Commemorative Flagpole, 1916-1966”. [Wellington] : Ditto, [1966].

5. New Zealand Railways files (Archives New Zealand) AAEB W3293 15/5862 ANZAC Day ceremony, Petone. Proposal to exchange flags with Hornsby Railway Department, N.S.W. (1915-1974) R 3 W3281 15/3312 Roll of Honour boards. Part 1 (1915-1942) R 3 W2381 15/2128 Work for Defence Dept. Part 1 (1915-1918) R-W3 9319 Erection of flagpole, Petone Railway Station. (1916-1965)

6. Petone Borough files (Hutt City Council Archive) Miscellaneous council correspondence. Government correspondence. 1914-1919 Microfilmed minute book. Reel 1 (1915-1921). 2005/40. ARCH 73123. Meeting of 7 April 1916.

7. Websites (names) (epitaphs and names)


Special thanks to:

1. Ken Williams, Manager, Australian Railway Historical Society, Redfern, NSW.2. Neil Chippendale, Hornsby Central Library, Hornsby, NSW. 3. Tony Bartley Architects, Wellington. 4. Alison Scott, Archivist, Hutt City Council, Lower Hutt. By Gerald Davidson. 27.3.06.

(Gerald Davidson is a member of the Petone Community Board. The title for the booklet, “Till the day breaks” comes from the epitaph of Private Eric Briggs Gabites. 622.9th Bn. Australian Infantry, AIF. Killed in action Gallipoli, 28 June 1915. Aged 24 years and 6 months. His full epitaph is: 'Til the day breaks and the shadows flee away. Eric Gabites is his great uncle. Current address : 35 Riddlers Crescent, Petone.)