Victoria Cross Corner
Sunday 29 January 1956, when the Victoria Cross Memorial was unveiled, was a memorable day in Dunedin, New Zealand – everyone was there, dressed in their best.
The unveiling of the memorial, outside the main entrance to the Dunedin RSA on the corner of Burlington Street and Moray Place, was a grand occasion attended by the Governor-General of New Zealand Sir Willoughby Norrie and Lady Norrie.
A plaque lists the names of the 22 recipients of the Victoria Cross, nine of whom were in attendance that day, and one of them – the Reverend Keith Elliott – dedicated the memorial. Reflecting the language of the time, the plaque pays tribute to soldiers of “the Maori War 1864, South African War 1899 – 1902, The Great War 1914 – 1918 and The World War 1939 – 1945”.
A Hero’s Painful Memories
Bernard “Tiny” Freyberg VC, CMG, DSO ended World War One a highly decorated hero – celebrated in Britain as well as his homeland of New Zealand. He had served with the British forces: his Distinguished Service Order (DSO) was won at Gallipoli, his Victoria Cross (VC) on the Somme and, at the age of 27, he was made the youngest Brigadier-General in the British Army. He would go on to command the 2nd New Zealand Division in World War Two and become Governor-General of New Zealand.
Born in London, he grew up in New Zealand after his family emigrated and he attended Wellington College, in the capital city.
In 1921, still suffering from the many wounds he received during the war, he returned to New Zealand for several weeks to recuperate. He turned down all requests for public appearances and a civic reception, but he did take time to visit his old school and address an assembly of the boys.
One of those schoolboys, Max Riske, vividly recalled the event some 60 years later in a radio interview. As Max explains, the boys were expecting a stirring speech from a glorious war hero – but got something quite different from the man who had lost two brothers and many friends in the war.
No bayonet needed / E hara te pēneti i mau
Captain Pirimi Tahiwi of Te Hokowhitu a Tū, the Māori Battalion, describes how he and Captain Roger Dansey led a charge on Sari Bair, Gallipoli in 1915. Te Rauparaha’s famous war cry “Ka Mate, Ka Mate” rang out as they cleared the Turkish trenches. Tahiwi says there was no need to use the bayonet as the Turkish troops fled for their lives.He was wounded in the neck and evacuated to England to convalesce. After an outstanding military career he attended the 50th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings as the sole surviving officer to serve in Te Hokowhitu a Tū, the Māori Pioneer Battalion. Tahiwi laid a mere pounamu, a symbol of both peace and war, on the memorial at Chunuk Bair.