Friday was spent in Palmerston North making last minute purchases before we head off on our 10 week caravan trip. Top of the list was a new probe thermometer (wonderful for cooking a large roast) for our Weber BBQ as ours died when we last used it. What caravan trip – you may be thinking? Our often talked about (between ourselves) return trip to explore even more of the South Island. We were last there in 2012 so it’s high time we returned again. On our way home we stopped to eat our lunch by Awapuni Racecourse and remembered hearing about an overgrown and forgotten memorial close by. Fate was calling, so we went to investigate.
Tucked away in a corner of Awapuni Racecourse is the Memorial to the Medical Corps, in memory of the men from the Corps who lost their lives in the Great War, and was officially dedicated in 1929 by Sir Charles Fergusson. Awapuni Racecourse was home to one of the largest WW1 training camps at the time. The camp was also the sole location for training New Zealand Medical Corps. After their training the members of the Corps were widely dispersed, to Egypt, Palestine, Salonika, France, Belgium and England, to serve with units of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
Medical Corps Memorial
The history and condition of the Memorial had faded over time and an extensive restoration project took place between 2014-2016 to mark the centenary of WW1. The aim was to preserve the original design features as a functioning water fountain while improving the aesthetics and accessibility of the memorial. After much research, the overgrown site was cleared followed by intensive site remediation.
The design of the memorial was originally described as “a cairn of marble blocks down which clear artesian water would gently weep”. The 14ft high cairn is in the centre of a pond shaped like a Maltese Cross, all encased by a circular garden. It was suggested at the time that the water trickling down “was the gentle weeping of Mother Earth who gave those men birth and to whom they had returned”. Such a lovely thought.
Photo by MURRAY WILSON/FAIRFAX NZ
Awapuni Medical Corps Memorial rededication ceremony at Awapuni racecourse.
The water feature was not in use during our visit, but even so, it was so interesting to view this lovely memorial and read the history on the information boards surrounding the site. And we discovered that Palmerston North remains the primary training location for NZ Medical staff who deploy overseas.