Blog

Dedication of the New Zealand Window at St Nicholas’ Church, Brockenhurst

unnamed

New Zealanders, villagers from Brockenhurst, leaders of the New Zealand armed forces and descendants of service personnel buried or cared for at Brockenhurst, gathered in the Saxon church on 29 June 2016 for this moving event. The window was unveiled by The New Zealand High Commissioner in London, the Rt Hon. Sir Lockwood Smith and the New Zealand Minister for Social Justice, Anne Tolley. Senior members of the armed forces were present, including Major General Peter Kelly, Chief of the New Zealand Army.

The No. 1 New Zealand General Hospital was established 100 years ago at Brockenhurst to care for wounded NZ soldiers evacuated from Gallipoli, some transported on recovery to the Battle of the Somme. Ninety-three NZ soldiers and one Australian soldier are buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in the churchyard. After the unveiling, those attending the ceremony filed along a fern-laden pathway to the cemetery preceded by a member of Ngāti Rānana London Māori Club, calling to those buried to awaken them to the proceedings. The soldier's hymn, Au E Ihu, was also sung. The Hon. Anne Tolley read excerpts from the journal of Captain Charlie May, killed on the first of July 1916, leading his men into battle on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The last post was sounded and following a minute of silence, also Reveille. The church bell then tolled 94 times for each man buried at Brockenhurst.

The specially commissioned stained glass window is a gift from New Zealand community groups and the New Zealand High Commission in London. It pays tribute to the NZ medical teams, the ANZAC soldiers and local people who provided support to the soldiers treated there. It shows a map of New Zealand surrounded by scenarios of nurses and soldiers. Some 20,000 New Zealand troops were treated here by 300 NZ nurses.

After a wreath was laid on the memorial by Anne Tolley, children from the local primary school sang at the ceremony and laid bouquets of flowers on the war graves for each soldier. During the First World War children from the village collected sphagnum moss locally to assist in the treatment of the wounded. Local people lent books and sports equipment and 14 members of the NZ Expeditionary Force married in Brockenhurst.

No. 1 New Zealand General Hospital was one of three hospitals established to treat wounded soldiers in England and notably developed the concept of the blood bank.

Those wanting to visit the church and graveyard can travel to Brockenhurst by train from Waterloo Station.