Wartime memories evoke tribute

A World War 2 haven for wounded soldiers will be in the forefront of memories when Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae attends the unveiling of a sculpture at Hamilton West Primary School today.

The sculpture is a tribute to five soldiers who were nursed back to health at the school when it was used as a military hospital.

The soldiers had etched their names, serial numbers and messages on some wooden planks, which were rescued from a caretaker's shed on the school grounds before it was demolished in 2006.

When Mark Penman was appointed principal in 2008, he was made aware of the planks. He showed them to Hamilton artist and friend of the school, David Lloyd, and asked him if he could turn them into a piece of art for the school.

Lloyd readily agreed. But having travelled to the Netherlands to attend the unveiling of a memorial for a relative who died in battle there, he was conscious of approaching the project in a sensitive manner.

So he set about trying to locate the families of the soldiers to see if he could obtain more information about the men, photographs of them, and to seek permission to turn the planks into a sculpture.

It took 200-300 phone calls for Lloyd to track down all the people and information he required, but it was a touching experience.

"The process brought up a lot of memories for these people and they've been thrilled to be involved. It's brought the soldiers to life again."

Families of the men - Douglas Colman, Noel Verran, Eric Francois, Henry Ryder and David Salt - will be attending the unveiling. The soldiers' photographs will hang alongside the sculpture, which will be hung in the school foyer.

Lloyd said people could interpret the sculpture for themselves. "These could be doors or windows to the past, or references to the past, present and future," he said, pointing to the three rectangular pieces with the men's etchings on them.

"These could be mountains in our region or pyramids - a lot of our troops were stationed in the Middle East during World War 2," he said, gesturing to the triangular pieces of wood on the right of the sculpture.

Mark Penman said Lloyd had done the work justice, with all the time and effort he put into the research. "It's incredibly touching," he said.

The school is one of the oldest in the country. Built in 1864, it was originally sited where Wintec is now. It moved to its Hammond St site about 1940.

- Hamilton News

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