Drovers' huts memorialise WW2 soldiers

Three roadside drovers’ huts have been nominated in Hawkes’ Bay for heritage listing by the Hastings District Council.

Drovers’ huts are one of the few reminders we have of droving stock around the country before trucking took over. The three huts in question were built in the 1940s as a memorial to three drovers who lost their lives in World War II.

Wilfred James (Togo) Kirkley is remembered in Maraekakaho. He was killed as a prisoner of war in Greece aged 27. No official grave is known. Percy Botherway is remembered in Pukehāmoamoa. He was killed aged 36 and is buried in Italy. James Edward (Jack) Oliver, aged 27, was killed and buried in Egypt, and is remembered in Poukawa.

In 1995, the Hastings District Council placed memorial plaques on the huts and held a service to remember the three soldiers. The land around the huts was designated roadside reserve so that the huts would remain in public ownership.

Until about 10 years ago, Oliver’s hut was used for social gatherings in Middle Road, Poukawa, for local men. Hawke’s Bay Heritage Consultant, Elizabeth Pishief says a use for the small roadside buildings needs to be found, or they will fall into disrepair. “These ones are particularly interesting because they have been built as war memorials for men who had been in their local communities. They are made out of concrete and they are all the same style. The men’s stories are interesting and they should be interpreted on the sides of the buildings.”

“I believe these memorials are very important because those wars, that were so far away, devastated families for several generations. And I think that is why we are very keen on peace as a nation now, ” says Elizabeth.

The drovers’ huts nomination is part of the Hastings District Council programme to identify places worthy of preservation.

- David Watt