By AMANDA BOWES
SFifty-two fallen soldiers from the Hawarden Waikari area will never be forgotten, as the majestic oaks lining the Hawarden-Waikari Road grow.
Each of the 53 trees will soon have a plinth beside it, with a marble slab on top and a plaque, each bearing the name, rank and home of the 52 soldiers lost from the area during World War 1.
Local farmer Richard Todd says the idea came to him soon after the Anzac 100 Horse Ride three years ago.
He was driving along the road just before the ride and happened to count the oaks.
“Fifty-three oaks, 52 fallen soldiers. I thought maybe plaques could be made in memory of those men; the extra tree in memory of the horses that went to war and never returned.”
He says the number of trees correlating to the number of soldiers is a coincidence, but a fitting one.
With the idea of a plinth and plaque settled on, funding was gained through the Trusts Community Foundation.
Richard designed a plinth, made a mould, then filled it with concrete. Pleased with the result, he took two moulds to Concreatures in Waikari, where 53 were made.
He had a demonstration plinth and plaque at the Hawarden A&P Show this year. He asked the public for suggestions and feedback via a suggestion box.
“There was overwhelming support for the idea. Many people have stepped forward to volunteer their time for the project.”
Richard spent a huge amount of time researching the soldiers’ names through the Auckland War Memorial archives to make sure he had the right information.
“There were some names missing from our local war memorials. When talking to Terry King, (from The Peaks Station), he said part-Maori soldiers who died in battle weren’t recognised as they weren’t considered to be part of mainstream society at the time. Also, soldiers who died from their wounds on the ships coming back to New Zealand weren’t acknowledged, either.
“I wanted to find the missing names so they could be remembered, too.”
The oaks were planted many years ago by members of the Hawarden-Waikari Garden Club, bought with money from local farmer Alistair Neill.
He bequeathed the money to buy trees to beautify the district.
Richard says he is hopeful the plinths will be in place by Armistice Day in November.
“The 100 Horse Ride in 2015 commemorated 100 years since our men and horses left the district; the plaques by each oak tree will commemorate the 52 soldiers who died and 100 years since the war ended.”