Civic Spirit

This postcard features the image of a Street Day held on 15 August 1917 to raise funds for the Belgian, Serbian and French Red Cross. The streets were lined with stalls selling produce such as eggs, meat, bread and sweets. They sold raffle ticket and treasure bags containing coupons for coal, cushions, cheese and toys, while a line of decorated vehicles paraded through the town. This day was one of many held to raise funds for war relief in Whanganui.

1 Postcard 1802.1035.1

 Postcard featuring a stall at the Street Day held in Whanganui on 15 August 1917 to raise funds for the Red Cross. Photographic Postcard by Arthur Watkinson. WRM Ref: 1802.1035.1

After war was declared on 4 August 1914, the military and civil minded citizens jumped into action. Men signed up for their duty at the Drill Hall in Maria Place, and civilians went into full fundraising mode, running galas and raffles and doing their bit for the boys at the front.

Individual and group efforts were all appreciated. Mr Rayney Jackson personally donated £1,500 for the purchase of a fully kitted-out aeroplane for the war, and another Carnival held in 1916 raised £65,899 for patriotic purposes (which equates nearly $9 million in 2019).

As patriotism grew, so did anti-German sentiment. The men’s choir, which had been called the Liedertafel since 1898, thought the name sounded too German so changed it to the Wanganui Male Choir. Pork butcher Conrad Heinold was the main target of a crowd that gathered in Victoria Avenue on the evening of 15 May 1915. German-born Heinold had set up business in Whanganui in 1886, becoming a naturalised British subject in 1894, but was accused of anti-British sympathies and his shop windows were smashed soon after the sinking of the Lusitania.

By the time the war ended on 11 November 1918, Whanganui had lost a total of 513 men. Wanting to commemorate their loss and the devastating effects of the war, talk immediately began on erecting a memorial to the soldiers. An argument about building a cenotaph on Queens Park or a lookout tower on Durie Hill was not settled, so both were built, one by the Wanganui Borough Council, and the other by the Wanganui County Council. The town also erected a memorial Moutoa Gardens, specifically to commemorate 17 Māori soldiers from the area who died.

Anzac Day has been celebrated locally and nationally since 1916, one year after the first ANZAC landings at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. These early celebrations involved a parade up Victoria Avenue and an open-air service at Cooks Gardens. By 1920, the Government had agreed to designate 25 April as an official day to commemorate the war, and by 1922, it was a full public holiday with all businesses closing as a mark of respect.

2 Anzac Parade 1805.64.1cp

Anzac Day parade on Victoria Avenue in Whanganui in the 1920s. Photograph by The Crown Depot. WRM Ref: 1805.64.1cp

Whanganui citizens, however, had picked up the Australian practice of holding a dawn service. The early morning start reflected the time of the Gallipoli landings and mimicked the routine dawn stand-to in the trenches, with the added symbolism of the cold and dark morning being broken by a hopeful sunrise. Liking this idea, Whanganui held New Zealand’s first ever Dawn Ceremony in 1936. The rest of the country had adopted it by 1939.

Whanganui showed a great civic spirit throughout the war and afterward, supporting the troops on service and making sure they were remembered appropriately afterward.

Making Poppies

With Poppy Week commencing, we are taking the time to remember the brave ANZACs who risked life and limb to fight.  Ahead of ANZAC Day on Saturday, we are hoping to turn the lawn in front of the Museum into a miniature Flanders Field and cover it with red poppies.  Want to give us a hand?

All materials will be provided. just bring your enthusiasm and ANZAC spirit, make a poppy, and leave it with us – we’ll put them out on Friday ahead of the dawn service on Saturday.

Lest we forget.

ANZAC poppy making image

Monuments and Memorials

The Whanganui district has over 25 monuments and memorials dedicated to those who have served in the military services and to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of our country.

PR-007 Moutoa Memorial

Moutoa Memorial in around 1866 facing north-west

New Zealand’s first war memorial stands in Moutoa Gardens/Pākaitore. The Moutoa Memorial, a weeping woman as the personification of grief, commemorates the fifteen kūpapa and one European who were killed at Moutoa Island, 80 kilometres up the Whanganui River, on 14 May 1864.

The Superintendent of Wellington Province, Dr Isaac Featherston, unveiled the memorial on 26 December 1865. Some 500 to 600 Māori, representing iwi from Whanganui to Wellington, and many Pākehā attended the ceremony. Unlike many later war memorials, it was not made to order, and was in fact purchased from Huxley & Parker of Melbourne by Featherston during a visit to Australia in early 1865.

The Moutoa Flag features a Union Jack, a crown surrounded by laurel leaves and the word “Moutoa” with a Māori and a European hand clasped in friendship. The original flag was subscribed for and made by the women of Whanganui, Rangitīkei and Manawatū to their own design, and gifted to local iwi. The sewing group was led by Mrs Logan, the wife of Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Abraham Logan, the commander of the imperial troops based in Whanganui.

Queens Park School with the entrance gates, which still stand today

Queens Park School with the entrance gates, which still stand today

There are also other obvious memorials. The Queens Park School Gates are a memorial to pupils from the school that died while serving during World War I. The Queens Park School Roll of Honour is located in the entrance to the Wanganui District Library in Queens Park.

Model of the proposed Durie Hill Tower with pointed top

Model of the proposed Durie Hill Tower with pointed top

Proposed plan for a Wanganui District Soldiers’ Memorial, incorporating a hall of memories

Proposed plan for a Wanganui District Soldiers’ Memorial, incorporating a hall of memories

The Durie Hill Tower just after completion

The Durie Hill Tower just after completion










The Durie Hill Tower was built as a war memorial to commemorate more than 500 servicemen from Whanganui who died in World War I. There was some disagreement about where to build the memorial. Some wanted a cenotaph in Queens Park while others wanted a lookout tower on Durie Hill. In the end both were built. The Wanganui Borough Council built the Cenotaph and the Wanganui County memorial was the tower. There were several plans for the Durie Hill Tower. One showed the tower with a point at the top and a perpetual light while another included a hall of memories. A lack of funding meant that a simplified version of the tower was eventually built. The Durie Hill Tower was unveiled on Anzac Day 1925.

The Wanganui Drill Hall April 1954

The Wanganui Drill Hall April 1954

The Whanganui Cenotaph in around 1924 with a group of people inspecting the wreaths laid for the Dawn Service

The Whanganui Cenotaph in around 1924 with a group of people inspecting the wreaths laid for the Dawn Service











In 1936 Whanganui was the first city in New Zealand to hold a Dawn Service. The Wanganui Chronicle tells us that over 100 former servicemen gathered before dawn outside the Drill Hall in Maria Place. Once formed up they marched to the Cenotaph in Queens Park where Padre W H Austin conducted the service before Bugler Alex Bogle played Reveille. As the sun began to rise the men placed poppies on the Cenotaph before marching back to the Drill Hall and then returning home.

Kyle Dalton is the External Relations Officer at Whanganui