Marsden Valley Cemetery’s unveiling of a WW1 memorial drew a large crowd on Saturday, and in the midst of it was 97-year-old Maurice Abrahams.
One of Nelson’s WW2 veterans, Maurice served for three years in the Middle East, where he was part of the 26th rifle battalion.
Maurice then campaigned on the front line in Greece before joining ordinance as an equipment truck driver and then being posted to the 6th brigade band.
“War was hard, when anyone in your unit was killed it brought back the fact that it’s you or I that gets killed, it makes you determined to survive.”
Maurice says he and his men were prepared to fight for their country and protect the Queen’s flag, despite the cost.
“We were loyal to the flag, and we still are, so the celebration was very meaningful for me.
The presentation was a very respectful way to honour those who fought those battles and also the young men who have taken their place and are currently serving their country.”
The memorial recognises the sacrifices made by local soldiers during the Great War and was unveiled on the 100th anniversary of the death of local man John Herbert Cock, who, after being wounded in battle twice, purposely missed the boat home to serve his country one last time.
Initiated by Nelson’s Mason Robinson, a sergeant in the Royal New Zealand Airforce, the memorial features the statue of a weary WW1 soldier ‘resting on arms reversed’ as well as three flags, a concrete sandbag bunker and commemorative plaques featuring words from The Last Post.
“I choke up and get quite emotional when I look back and think about what we’ve managed to achieve here,” says Mason. “It was a wonderful day and seeing the faces of the veterans as they saw the statue and what it meant for them, that made the day.”
The Minister of Veterans Affairs, David Bennett, unveiled the statue after the Royal New Zealand Air Force display team flew over the cemetery and a troop of local cadets and New Zealand Defence Force members were inspected.
Mason led the project on behalf of the Nelson Returned Services Association and was supported financially by Nelson City Council and Lotteries.
The statue was designed by Oamaru artist Don Patterson, while New Zealand Army engineers from Burnham military camp undertook the construction of the memorial.