The Pukerau Anzac Day service and the unveiling of the Dick Travis Memorial Wall was well attended and a great success.
Relatives of Sergeant Dick Travis came from as far away as Australia and about 90 children from Camp Columba also took part.
New Zealand Army Colonel (retired) Roger McElwain said the consequences of the war for small communities like Pukerau were massive.
Anzac wreaths were laid by a number of families, groups and organisations, including Pukerau School, Pukerau Cemetery Support Group and the Pukerau RSA.
The Pukerau service and memorial wall opening was attended by Noel Bockett and his wife, who travelled from Australia to be at the opening.
Sgt Travis was Mr Bockett’s great-uncle.
Mr Bockett said the memorial wall was absolutely beautiful.
“I find it tremendous that the whole of Southland knows about Travis,” he said.
The memorial wall was officially opened by David MacDonald on behalf of the wider Travis family.
Mr MacDonald’s grandmother was Sgt Travis’ sister.
Mr MacDonald said it was wonderful to see so many had worked hard to keep Sgt Travis’ memory alive.
“I think it’s really great that it’s done for the school. We talked about the younger generation and the challenge is to pass this on to them and the significance of these great wars and the sacrifices made,” Mr MacDonald said.
Mr MacDonald said it was great to make the memorial wall, with its flags, a permanent fixture, as such artefacts were often put in boxes in back rooms, resulting in them getting damaged.
“I think what’s really cool is Travis’ memory has been etched in history here.”
Mr MacDonald had travelled with his wife, Diane MacDonald, from Christchurch for the unveiling.
Mrs MacDonald said to pass on history, we had to talk about what happened and, by doing so, we showed that it was significant and important.
“We must talk about it to our children and our children’s children and that is how the memory will be kept.”
Col McElwain said New Zealand had a huge military history associated with World War 1 and the challenge was that most of it resided in the families and small communities and was not as widely known as it should be.
“That’s why something like this is fantastic,” he said.
Col McElwain said it was more than just a name on a wall.
“It represents who we are as New Zealanders, the contribution we made, but more particularly, these were men who came from small-town New Zealand and they made the ultimate sacrifice and they need to be remembered not just in the community, but by New Zealand as well.”
Richard Charles Travis, VC, DCM, MM (April 6, 1884-July 25, 1918) was a New Zealand soldier who fought during World War 1 and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be given to Commonwealth forces.
Before serving in the military, Travis worked as a farm hand and horse breaker and was known as being a bit of a trouble-maker, to the extent that he led a rather transient existence after leaving home at the age of 21.
During the war, he served briefly at Gallipoli before being sent to France, where he fought in the trenches along the Western Front, earning a reputation as a scout and sniper.
He was killed by shellfire a day after performing the deed that led to him being awarded the Victoria Cross.