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Steady . . . Staff sergeant Darren Ryan checks the position of the Otama Union Jack flag display case on its sandbag base at the start of the Armistice Day remembrance service at the Otama Hall on Monday. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

A World War 1 relic has been returned to the community which has given it a home for about a hundred years.

The Otama Union Jack flag has been restored and mounted in a display case under the supervision of the New Zealand Army.

At an Armistice Day remembrance service on Monday, about 200 people gathered to welcome back the flag, which will be hung on the wall of the Otama Hall.

After the war, Otama district farmer Bill Dickson, a returned soldier who fought in the Battle of Passchendaele, began the tradition of flying the flag at the Otama monument.

It has been flown at the Otama Anzac Day service each year since and up until recently was in the care of Bob and Merle Miller, of Otama.

Mr Dickson’s grandson Alistair Turnbull, of Invercargill, was at the service.

Mr Turnbull said he had not known his grandfather for long, as he had died before Mr Turnbull started school.

However, he thought his grandfather “would probably have been quite proud” to see how the flag had been preserved.

The flag was not the only item his grandfather came home with.

“He brought a grenade .. and it’s now in the Waikaia Museum, along with his water bottle.”

The display case was piped into the hall by Otama man Bruce McLeod.

Otama School pupils Molly Salter (8)and Kewene Donaldson (12) spoke about two servicemen who had grown up in the area and died during the war.

Molly talked about her great-great-great-great uncle George Arthur Morris while Kewene spoke on behalf of the McKay family about Peter McKay.Another pupil the school bell after the two-minute silence.

Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks gave the address.

Mr Hicks thanked those who had taken care of the flag.

“It is a treasure not just for this community but the wider community and our nation,” Mr Hicks said.

In preparing his address, Mr Hicks had come across an article in a 1926 Mataura Ensign which reported the dedication of the Otama War Memorial.

His great-grandfather had spoken at the event and a comment he had made was apt for the day, Mr Hicks said.

“The strength of any community is always measured by the nature of the people and by that measure Otama is in great heart.”

Project Ark conservator Laurence Le Ber was at the service and had been responsible for preparing the linen flag for the display case.

Mr Le Ber said firstly he laid the flag out.

“We had to relax it because it had been folded up for a long time .. then it gradually comes back into shape,” Mr Le Ber said.

Once that had been done and the flag cleaned, he stitched it on to a backing of fine material called organza.

“It’s very fragile.

“By stitching it on with very small stitches it is supported on that.”