By DAVID HILL Reflecting. . . The official party reflects after the Kaiapoi War Memorial Cenotaph received a plaque from the Waimakariri Landmarks Committee to coincide with Armistice Day commemorations on Thursday. PHOTO: DAVID HILL

By David Hill

The Kaiapoi Cenotaph has been recognised as a Landmark.

Former Waimakariri Mayor David Ayers unveiled a Landmark plaque on behalf of the Waimakariri Landmarks Committee during Kaiapoi’s Armistice Day commemoration service last Thursday.

Christchurch stone mason William Tretheway was commissioned to sculpt a
marble statue of a New Zealand soldier and it was unveiled in 1922.

‘‘The Kaiapoi Soldier Memorial is regarded as one of the finest in New Zealand for this kind of memorial,’’ Mr Ayers says.

‘‘With this memorial, Tretheway set a benchmark for others to follow around New Zealand and it was lauded as embodying the Anzac spirit.’’

The statue is considered to be a ‘‘realistic’’ portrayal of a digger resting after a desperate charge, with a wounded arm and torn sleeve.

It was modelled on Private James Douglas Stark or ‘‘Starkie’’ of the 1st Battalion, Otago Regiment.

Starkie was known for his reckless courage of carrying wounded solders back across ‘‘no man’s land’’ and for destroying enemy machine gun posts, but also his recklessness away from the battlefield.

Nominated for both the Military Medal and the Victoria Cross, both were declined on account of his nine court martials for striking officers and drunkenness.

Although from Southland, he had a connection to Kaiapoi through his elder brother, Lance Corporal George Singleton Stark, whose address upon enlistment was listed as care of the Kaiapoi Post Office.

While George Stark was killed at the Somme in 1916, Starkie returned home and is thought to have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

He struggled with alcohol and spent time in prison for burglary, theft and arson, and later died in 1942 aged just 45-years.

After the Kaiapoi RSA’s Passchendaele Day commemoration service was cancelled due to the weather (rather than Covid-19), president Neill Price read a message from Belgium’s honorary consul to Christchurch, reminding the small crowd that ‘‘Belgians have not forgotten’’.

Rural Canterbury police area superintendent Inspector Peter Cooper also spoke about the contribution of New Zealand police to World War 1.

Police were actively discouraged from enlisting, with the Police Minister of the day saying:

‘‘if policemen were allowed to enlist in great numbers, he would not be responsible for the safety of the country’’.

Duties for police officers during WW1 included intelligence gathering, ‘‘managing aliens’’ and ‘‘hunting shirkers’’.

He says 158 police officers, or 18 percent, did resign from the force to enlist.