Gore RSA’s story told

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Comradeship, welfare and remembrance sum up the core of the Gore RSA, Wendon author Doug Wing says.

Mr Wing’s book, Comradeship, Welfare, Remembrance – Gore District Memorial RSA 1917 – 2017 was released for the RSA’s 100-year celebration last weekend.

Mr Wing is an experienced author with nine books to his name, including district histories, but his latest offering is the first for which he has carried out all the research.

Sifting through the branch’s minute books and past copies of The Ensigngave him a detailed picture of the early days of the organisation.

The Gore RSA was founded to provide comradeship but soon also came to encompass the welfare of its members and remembrance of those who had served their country, Mr Wing said.

The book tells the story of how the organisation was born.

As the number of soldiers returning from fighting in Egypt and Gallipoli during the latter part of 1915 grew, informal groups of returned soldiers were formed in some localities around New Zealand, he said.

“It was felt that if soldiers banded together, solutions to their problems could more easily be found,” he said.

“On 28 April, 1916, a group of returned soldiers met in Wellington to form the New Zealand Returned Soldiers’ Association to look after the interests of all returned soldiers.”

In Gore a group of returned men met on May 16, 1917, to form a local branch.

The meeting was presided over by Lieutenant-colonel Edmund Bowler, a lawyer in Gore, who had been a staff officer in Egypt and Gallipoli, Mr Wing said.

“Following the war, the effects of the experiences the men had endured became a burden on many [and] the health and wellbeing of the returned soldier became a priority of the RSA.”

Former long-serving Gore RSA secretary-manager Gordon Gerken said the health of all those who saw active service was impaired in some way as a result.

The organisation’s first premises, situated upstairs in the Holland building above where Van de Water Jewellers is today, were destroyed by fire month after they opened, Mr Wing said.

They were then located in the Ambrose building at the corner of Medway St and Hokonui Dr, above what is now the Thomas Green Public House and Dining Room.

“In 1936 the club was again to suffer when another devastating fire again destroyed those premises,” Mr Wing said.

After the fire, the clubrooms moved to the first floor of the old Southland Farmers’ Co-operative building in Main St.

RSA branches around the country, the Gore membership level dropped as a result of economic pressures.

The RSA boasted a strong women’s section.

The Gore RSA had maintained its strength over the years as it had welcomed associate members into its ranks, Mr Wing said.