NEW MEMORIAL: Sergeant Mason Robinson, left, and Nelson RSA president Barry Pont stand next to a concrete sandbag installation which is part of the landscaping for the WW1 commemorative statue in Marsden Valley cemetery. Photo: Jessie Johnston.

WW1 statue to be unveiled at Marsden cemetery

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A new WW1 memorial will be unveiled this weekend at Marsden Valley cemetery, recognising the sacrifices made by local soldiers during the Great War.

The idea was hatched around two years ago after Nelson’s Mason Robinson, a sergeant in the Royal New Zealand Airforce, was present when Helen Clark unveiled a statue of a WW1 soldier in Sydney.

“The next time I came back to Nelson and played a Last Post, I looked around and thought, our soldiers haven’t got much recognition for all the efforts that they’ve put in, I think we should do something along the lines of a war memorial,” says Mason.

Since then he has led the project on behalf of the Nelson Returned Services Association. A statue was completed by Oamaru artist Don Patterson in June last year and depicts a WW1 soldier resting on arms reversed.

“The position he’s taking is one of being absolutely buggered, the expression on his face depicts a hard day out in the field, it’s really one of genuine bewilderment at what’s just happened in battle,” says Mason.

Nelson City Council contributed $20,000 towards the statue, while Lottery provided Nelson RSA with a grant of $30,000, however, when it came time to find a place for the statue to rest, Mason saw there was a lot of work left to do to create the war memorial.

“I looked around and thought, you can’t put this statue in the current surrounds, so we had to bring them up to a respectful level that our soldiers deserve,” says Mason.

The construction of the war memorial has been undertaken by New Zealand Army engineers from Burnham military camp and is based on a WW1 bunker.

The memorial will be unveiled on Saturday, April 15, exactly 100 years after prominent Nelsonian, John Herbert Cock was killed in action while serving in the Royal Flying Corp.

“The biggest impact on me has been the amount of buy in from the community and how much people have contributed, donated and supported it, it needs a lot of organising but it’s meant a lot of satisfaction in pulling it all together,” says Mason.

Beginning at 11am, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, David Bennett, will unveil the statue and inspect a troop of local cadets and New Zealand Defence Force, there will be a fly over by the Royal New Zealand Air Force display team.

The public are welcome to attend the unveiling, although it is asked that people be at the cemetery no later than 10:30am to park their vehicles as the gates will be closed from this time.