The suggestion of the need for a war memorial was first made in an article featured in ‘The Press’ on the 24th July 1923. The C.C.C. couldn’t ignore the support showed by the public for this idea so a competition was released for a design to be made.
A company named Prouse and Gummer won; construction of their design began on the 23rd January 1923. Dedicated to those who lost their young lives in World War I, it also now acts as a memorial to those sacrifices made in WWII, Borneo, Korea, Malaya and Vietnam. Even though Cashel Street Bridge was chosen, the bridge was not closed to traffic until 1976. A few years later, the rest of Cashel Street – as far as Manchester Street – followed suit.
Why was Cashel Street Bridge chosen over all the other city bridges? From 1865, an army drill hall had sat at the western end of Cashel Street. That hall was replaced by the King Edward Barracks in 1905 and every time our soldiers headed off to war, they would leave the barracks and march across the Cashel Street Bridge so no other place would do!
The cornerstone was laid by Governor General Lord Jellicoe and a blessing prayed by Archbishop Churchill Julius. Maybe it was this blessing that saved the memorial from full destruction after the quakes of 2011. Repairs have been underway since as the archway was damaged.
The memorial was unveiled on the 11th November 1924. Quite like nothing else in the city, I’m sure it was an emotional day to the people of Christchurch and especially those who lost family and friends in the Great War. The memorial has crosses, torches, coat of arms, laurel wreaths, fascias, rosemary decorations and decorative lions.
South of the Bridge of Remembrance is the Gallipoli Oak, planted in 1924. It had been brought home as an acorn from Gallipoli by Douglas Deans (who was born at Riccarton) in 1918 and raised until the opening of the Bridge. Gallipoli Oaks were also planted around this time at the other Deans’ farms out at Darfield and no doubt, also included Riccarton.
‘Quid non pro patrina’ – What will a man do for his country
Our Kiwi soldiers deserve to be remembered for all time.
*image courtesy of http://christchurchcitylibraries.com*