First World War Memorial

Victoria Road And King Edward Parade, Devonport, Auckland

  • First World War Memorial, Devonport. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 5/09/2018.
  • First World War Memorial, Devonport 2012.
    Copyright: No Known Copyright Restrictions. Taken By: J Halpin.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 4515 Date Entered 30th June 2006

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent of registration includes part of the land in the Victoria Road road reserve (as shown on Map B in Appendix 4 of the Registration Report) and the memorial, its fittings and fixtures, thereon. The registration also incorporates an area of land 0.5m from the base of the north, east, south and west sides of the memorial.

City/District Council

Auckland Council (North Shore City Council)

Region

Auckland Council

Legal description

Part of Victoria Road road reserve, adjacent to Windsor Reserve

Summaryopen/close

Unveiled by Lord Jellicoe in 1924, the First World War Memorial in Devonport commemorates soldiers from Devonport who died in both the First and Second World Wars (1914-1918 and 1939-1945). Incorporating the sculpture of a soldier of unusual, informal design, it was erected on Victoria Road - Devonport's main commercial thoroughfare - alongside Windsor Reserve, the site of the settlement's first naval base. The Reserve was also the location of the Council Chambers from 1887 until the early 1950s. The monument was one of many memorials built in communities throughout New Zealand following the First World War. As noted by historians Chris Maclean and Jock Phillips, the memorials served as surrogate tombs for families of New Zealanders buried in overseas graves, and commemorated the achievements of all those who lost their lives.

Devonport's military connections

Devonport had strong connections with military service from the beginning of European settlement in the area. An ammunition depot and naval stores were established in Devonport (then known as Flagstaff) in 1841, the same year that the land was purchased by the Crown from Ngati Paoa. During the 1800s, Windsor Reserve was known as the Naval Reserve and was used as a landing place for naval vessels. Towards the end of the century, the navy moved to nearby Calliope Point where the current naval base was established.

During the Russian Scare of 1885, fortifications and gun batteries were built at Mt Victoria, Fort Takapuna and North Head in Devonport, as well as at Fort Bastion and Fort Resolution on the south side of Waitemata Harbour. The fortifications were adapted and modernised during the First and Second World Wars. During periods of tension, such as wartime, the batteries were fully manned.

A history of commemoration had already been established before the construction of the First World War Memorial. The Coronation Sea Wall erected by the Borough Council in 1902 along the waterfront southeast of Windsor Reserve incorporates an inscription to 'Peace in South Africa' at the end of the Second Boer War (1899-1902), as well as commemorating the coronation of Edward VII in the same year. A further memorial in the form of a fountain was erected in Windsor Reserve the following year to commemorate the two men from the district who had fallen in the conflict, the first in which New Zealand volunteers served overseas.

Construction of the First World War Memorial

In June 1919, the Devonport Borough Council decided to hold a public meeting to discuss erecting a memorial to the soldiers who had died in the First World War. A newspaper report of the meeting noted that the idea of a war memorial had been 'in the air for some time' in the Devonport community. The first public meeting was held on 14 August 1919 at the Parish Hall, at which a management committee was elected, consisting of council members and local residents. The meeting was attended by about 100 residents. At the meeting a number of suggestions were made about possible structures for the memorial, including a library and gymnasium, a public hall, a Corinthian column and an astronomical observatory on Mt Victoria. The Mayor stressed that the greatest consideration should be given to the residents whose sons had gone to the front.

At the following meeting, in September 1919, the Devonport Memorial Statue Committee decided to erect a memorial of 'monumental design' rather than one of a 'utilitarian nature' in accordance with the wishes of some members of the committee who had lost sons in the war. The committee also decided to erect the monument in the vicinity of Marine Square, which one member described as 'the gateway to the north'. In addition to the main memorial, the committee resolved to erect a memorial in the Public School grounds, which was subsequently unveiled in December 1921.

A public competition for the design of the main memorial was held, won by Frank Lynch in March 1922. Lynch's winning design had been created the previous year. Lynch, who was based in Auckland, designed a bronze statue of a New Zealand soldier in military uniform. He was paid £570 for the work. Another casting of Lynch's statue was also used for the Masterton Memorial. Most of the funds for the Devonport memorial had been raised through public subscriptions.

The statue was cast by A.B. Burton at the Thames Ditton foundry in London, at a cost of £414. It had arrived in New Zealand by April 1923. The New Zealand Shipping Company carried the statue free of charge and the Auckland Harbour Board also made financial concessions.

By the time the statue had arrived in New Zealand, the committee had run out of funds from public subscriptions. The Committee began campaigning straight away. After several months it had procured sufficient funds from further donations from the local community, along with a £250 grant from the Devonport Borough Council.

The decision over the design for the base took more than six months, as there was some controversy over the form it should take. Eventually, in October 1923, a design by a local company Messrs. McNab and Mason was selected, which was the cheapest of the four designs submitted. The company began constructing the monument in the same month.

In the meantime, there had been considerable controversy over a suitable location for the memorial. There were many residents, including the Mayor, who supported the current site for the memorial next to the Council chambers. However, there were also a number of supporters of other locations, including Marine Square and another position in Windsor Reserve on the waterfront. There were still petitions to change the location of the memorial after construction had begun on the site near the Council chambers.

Unveiling of the First World War Memorial

The First World War Memorial was unveiled on 13 April 1924, by the Governor General, Viscount Jellicoe (1859-1935). It was one of the last public ceremonies attended in New Zealand by Lord Jellicoe, who completed his term of office soon afterwards. An admirer of New Zealand's staunchly loyal attitude to empire, Lord Jellicoe had been First Sea Lord of the British Admiralty for a year from December 1916 and assumed office as Governor General of New Zealand in September 1920. The ceremony was attended by an estimated crowd of 4000 to 5000 people, with Victoria Road and part of King Edward Parade closed off to accommodate the crowds.

The Mayor of Devonport, Mr. T. Lamont, presided over the ceremony. It was also attended by several military personnel, politicians including Sir Maui Pomare and Hon. C.J. Parr, and church dignitaries, including the Bishop of Auckland, Rt Rev. A. W. Averill.

Addresses were made by the Mayor, Sir Maui Pomare (on 'behalf of the Native Races'), the Hon. C.J. Parr ('on behalf of Cabinet') and Lord Jellicoe. Lord Jellicoe commented on the quality of the New Zealand soldiers and how ready they were to serve the Empire. 'I hope' he said, 'that this memorial, which tells to all so great a tale of heroism, self-sacrifice and loyalty, will forever be guarded as a sacred trust by the people of Devonport'.

The next-of kin of the soldiers killed in the war were provided with seats. Officers and men were inspected by Lord Jellicoe. A number of groups paraded, including the Devonport Senior Cadets, girl guides, boy scouts and sea scouts, parties of HMS Chatham and Philomel, local friendly societies, Sunday School children, members of the RNVR and veterans. Music was provided by the Devonport Boys' Brass Band. At the end of the ceremony the next of kin and various societies laid wreaths on the monument.

The memorial was formally handed over to the Devonport Borough Council on 25 May 1925.

The unusual soldier figure on the memorial drew comment from the public from the very beginning. Unlike most First World War memorials in New Zealand, the figure attempted to portray a New Zealand soldier in a lifelike manner. Most New Zealand communities had ordered soldier figures from Italian firms, which delivered mass-produced statues. Lynch himself commented in a letter to the Prime Minister in 1924 that 'we have, studded throughout New Zealand, presentments of supposed New Zealand soldiers utterly without type or character'.

The Devonport statue is described as being distinctly New Zealand, with a 'strong bony' New Zealand face and informal attire, with shoelaces undone and hat in hand. Lynch reportedly commented about his soldier ... 'As he leaves his unfinished job, he takes a last look back at the heights, and doffs his hat to the memory of his dead "cobbers"'. The soldier apparently represented a Gallipoli soldier, and therefore wears clothes from various branches of the military service, including cavalry trousers, infantry boots and an Australian hat. Historians Maclean and Phillips summed up the statue: 'Instead of the stiff stance and blank stares of the mail-order soldier, we have a digger in trench kit about to evacuate from Gallipoli... The result is a genuine effort to capture the personality and distinctiveness of the Kiwi soldier... The mythology of the New Zealand soldier, who failed on the spit-and-polish but was heroic in battle, finds realisation in bronze.'

Lynch apparently used his brother, Joseph, as the model for the soldier, although one fellow student who attended art school with Lynch believed that he was the model.

The memorial continued to draw comment from the public in later years, becoming known as the 'untidy soldier'.

Subsequent history

The monument continued to be a focal point for commemorations in the community after its construction. The Duke and Duchess of York were welcomed to Devonport next to the memorial at the time of their visit in 1927. A photograph of the monument published in 1936 suggests that it was the site of ANZAC Day commemorations during the inter-war period. Following the Second World War, plaques were added to the east and west elevations of the memorial, commemorating the many local men who had died in the conflict. An additional plaque was added to the south side of the memorial in 1999, commemorating the men who left New Zealand to fight in the Second Boer War. This was installed by the Returned Services Association as a way marking the beginning of New Zealand's involvement in overseas conflicts. The memorial continues to be the focus for commemorative services held in Devonport on ANZAC Day (25 April).

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

It has historical significance for its close association with several international conflicts, Devonport's military history and New Zealand's close imperial ties with Great Britain.

The First World War Memorial in Devonport has aesthetic value for its powerful and realistic portrayal of a New Zealand soldier at war.

The Memorial has social and spiritual significance as the principal memorial to Devonport residents who died in conflict, and as the focus of annual ANZAC Day commemorations.

a)The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

The First World War Memorial in Devonport reflects important aspects of New Zealand history, notably the participation of New Zealand men in international conflicts, New Zealand's relationship with the British Empire and Devonport's military history. The Memorial reflects the movement amongst communities throughout New Zealand following the First World War to commemorate the fallen.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

The First World War Memorial is connected with several international conflicts, including the First and Second World Wars, and with significant individuals, including Lord Jellicoe, Governor-General of New Zealand.

(e)The community association with, or public esteem for, the place

As the main memorial commemorating local men who served in the First and Second World Wars, the place has strong community associations. The monument remains a place of commemoration for ANZAC day.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

Located on a road reserve in Devonport's main commercial street, the place has potential for public education about New Zealand's involvement in overseas conflicts in general, and Devonport's significant military history in particular. The educational potential of the place is increased by its proximity to other monuments of related function in and adjacent to Windsor Reserve. Devonport is a popular seaside resort, with numerous local and international visitors.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

The design of the memorial is significant as its soldier figure has a distinctive, New Zealand character. It, and a monument at Kaiapoi, have been described by authorities on the subject as 'the most authentic monuments of diggers that we have'.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place

The memorial has considerable commemorative value for its remembrance of the Devonport men who have fought and died in several international conflicts.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape

The First World War Memorial is part of a wider historical and cultural landscape in Devonport, a well-preserved late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century suburb. It is a particularly visible feature in a commemorative landscape focussed on King Edward Parade, Windsor Reserve and the southern end of Victoria Road. Nearby monuments linked to Devonport's military history include a hydrographic marker where the charting of New Zealand's coastal waters by HMS Acheron commenced in 1848, an historic flagstaff from the maritime signal station on Mt Victoria, and the remnants of a fountain built to commemorate two local troopers who died in the South African - or Second Boer - War. Other monuments further to the east along King Edward Parade include the Coronation Sea Wall built to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII and peace in South Africa at the end of the Second Boer War in 1902.

Linksopen/close

Construction Professionalsopen/close

McNab & Mason Ltd

Stonemasons

McNab was a sculptor and designer based in Auckland. McNab and Mason were responsible for the Cook Monument, Gisborne (1906). His monumental mason business was taken over by Parkinson and Boskill, also of Auckland.

Lynch Frank

Frank Guy Lynch (1897 - ?)

Lynch was born in Melbourne, where he began sculpture lessons at age 14 and later studied drawing and modelling at the Melbourne Art School. He then moved to New Zealand with his family.

When the First World War (1914-1918) began, Lynch joined the New Zealand military service, serving in Egypt, Gallipoli and France. It is said that Lynch used clay to model the heads of his fellow soldiers while at war. After serving in the war, Lynch went to London, where he received tuition from Mr. Benjamin Clemens, of the Royal College of Art. He also studied anatomy at Guy's Hospital, and drawing at the London Polytechnic.

Lynch then returned to Auckland, where he established a studio at his home in Totara Street, Ponsonby. He worked there with his brother, Joseph, who later became a cartoonist for a Melbourne newspaper.

In March 1922, Lynch won the competition for the design of the First World War Memorial in Devonport. A cast of the same soldier figure was also used for the Masterton War Memorial. Lynch subsequently wrote to the New Zealand Government several times asking for more work, but it appears that he did not receive any further commissions in New Zealand. In 1924, Lynch moved to Australia, where he continued to work as a sculptor. One of his works, 'Satyr' is now in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney. The figure was modelled from his brother, Joseph. Lynch also designed a section of the partially completed Pozieres diorama commissioned for display at the Australian War Memorial in 1929.

Burton, A. B.

Founder.

From Thames Ditton, England

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The First World War Memorial is located next to Windsor Reserve, on the corner of Victoria Road and King Edward Parade in Devonport. Devonport is a well-preserved late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century suburb in North Shore City, which - as a major naval base since the foundation of colonial Auckland - is particularly aware of its military origins and connections to the British Empire. The memorial is adjacent to the Devonport Public Library at the southern end of a row of trees lining Victoria Street, Devonport's main commercial thoroughfare. The monument is partly surrounded by a low semicircular stone brick wall, which is lined with a wooden seat. A radial line of bricks set in asphalt encircles the monument at ground level.

The base of the memorial comprises two square steps of polished Coromandel and Bluff granite set into the ground (approximately 1.9m square). A tapering plinth of rough-hewn granite blocks sit on top of the steps, held together with cement mortar. The plinth is topped by a rectangular slab of polished stone (810mm x 690mm), which supports the statue. The plinth has a rugged appearance, complementing the informal pose of the sculpture above.

The 2.1 metre (7ft) bronze cast statue is of a soldier in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. The soldier is dressed in full service uniform and has a rifle slung over his shoulder, with the sling passing through his right hand. Several other items hang from a belt around his waist. His hat is held in his left hand. His dress is untidy and his shoelaces are undone. The soldier looks westwards towards Marine Square with a furrowed brow.

The words 'F. Lynch. Sc' are inscribed on the soldier's left boot and the words 'A.B. Burton. Founder. London' are inscribed on his right boot.

A stone plaque in the form of a scroll is set into the front (south) elevation of the plinth. It reads: 'Remembering these dead, let the living be humble'. Below these words is a list of about 80 men. Beneath the scroll is another plaque on the polished stone base, which states: 'In grateful remembrance of the men from Devonport who gave their lives in the Great War 1914-1918'.

An added plaque on the east side of the memorial reads: 'In grateful memory of the fallen of Devonport in World War Two 1939-45'. Below these words is a list of approximately 60 men. On the west side of the memorial is a list of another 11 men who died in the Second World War.

On the south side of the memorial is a plaque that was erected by the Returned Services Association. It reads: 'This plaque commemorates the 100th anniversary of the first deployment of New Zealand forces overseas. On the 21st October 1899, the first contingent of 215 men and 250 horses left Queen's Wharf, Wellington aboard the SS Waiwera for the South African War. 21 October 1999.'

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1923 - 1924

Modification
1945 -
Addition of two plaques commemorating the Second World War

Modification
1999 -
Addition of plaque commemorating centenary of the first deployment of New Zealand forces overseas

Construction Details

Bronze cast statue; Coromandel and Bluff granite base

Information Sources

Auckland Star

Auckland Star

15 August 1919; 8 September 1919; 16 March 1922; 24 November 1923; 12 April 1924; 14 April 1924; 4 July 1958; 18 July 1958; 4 August 1958

Devonport Gazette and Greater North Shore Advocate

Devonport Gazette and Greater North Shore Advocate

31 May 1923, 25 October 1923

Woodward, 1972

Robin Woodward, 'Public Sculptures in Auckland, 1895 - 1971', MA Thesis, University of Auckland, 1972

MacLean, 1990

Chris MacLean and Jock Phillips, The Sorrow and the Pride: New Zealand War Memorials, Wellington, 1990

Musgrove, 1986

Sydney Musgrove (ed), The Hundred of Devonport: A Centennial History, Devonport, 1986.

New Zealand Building Progress

New Zealand Building Progress

December 1921 p.82; April 1923, p.191

New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.

14 April 1924, p.8

North Shore City Council

North Shore City Council

Takapuna Library Photo Archives, Neg. T1767; DBC 105/167 Sheet 2

North Shore Times Advertiser

North Shore Times Advertiser

17 September 1974

Weekly News

Weekly News

8 January 1964, p.39

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Northern Region Office

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.