A celebration of the past

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A large crowd took part in a moving memorial service at the former Queen Mary Hospital Soldiers’ block in Hanmer Springs on Sunday.
The service was part of a three-day celebration marking the 100th anniversary of the opening of Soldiers’ Block, which in June 1916, became a haven for returned soldiers suffering from shell shock, injury and disease.
Starting on Friday, the celebrations culminated in a parade up Amuri Ave and into the Soldiers’ block drive way.
It was led by vintage cars and the New Zealand Army Band, followed by two nurses in period costume with Simpson’s’ donkeys, others dressed in period costume and the Amuri Mounted Rifles.
The public gathered outside the Joffre Ward, where the dignitaries were dropped off in vintage cars.
Several speeches were given and the Hanmer Springs Primary School Kapa Haka group gave a great display with a song – Utaina and then performed their own Haka.
Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley, Dr Robert Crawford, the Superintendent of Queen Mary Hospital from 1976-1991, and Hanmer Springs Four Square owner John Dawber, unveiled a fountain which had been in the grounds since 1916, then removed and relegated to life in a shed.
Rediscovered a few years ago, the fountain, which was still in working order was reinstated.
Dr Crawford gave a brief speech with Mr Dawber then handed over a sculpted key, reenacting a scene from 100 years ago when the local shop keeper handed over the key to the new Soldiers’ Block.
The service ended with the crowd singing the National Anthem and God Save The Queen. The doors to the Joffre Ward were then opened so the public could see inside the spruced up building and look at the displays and memorabilia.