Nelson's war memorials


ANZAC Day on 25 April each year is a time to remember those who died in war.  Nelson has many memorials, which reveal some of the stories of those who died. To visit the memorials, download either the Memorial Walk or try the Remembrance Trail, which covers memorials beyond the central city.

Anzac Park Waharoa

The Anzac Park Waharoa is a monument of remembrance for the members of the 28th Māori Battalion who have passed away and have whakapapa to Te Tau Ihu. It forms a fitting entrance to the Park that remembers Nelsonians who fought for New Zealand in a number of wars.

Unveiling of the Waharoa, 2011. Nelson City Council.
Click image to enlarge

The Battalion was a frontline infantry unit formed at the start of World War II and made up of entirely of volunteers, who fought with distinction (Māori had volunteered in the previous World War but had not been permitted to fight). Some Māori men who were too young to enlist changed their names in order to volunteer, for example Bill Stafford who signed up as George Thomas Stafford.

The working group for the project was formed in July 2010 after a meeting of the six iwi chairs forming the Kotahitanga of Te Tau Ihu. The distinctive gateway to Anzac Park at the corner of Rutherford and Halifax Street was officially blessed in 2011. The unveiling of the Waharoa coincided with the hosting by Nelson of the Italian Rugby team and visitors to the Rugby World Cup.  Many Māori battalion members fought in Italy in WW2 and had strong ties with the country.

The wooden carvings are the work of master carver Mark Davis, the tohunga whakairoa ki Whakatū based at Whakatū Marae in Nelson.  Davis also is known for his carvings at Whakatū Marae meeting house and distinctive Pou whenua at Founders Heritage Park.

The maihi include representations of Rongo ma tāne on one side and Tū Matauenga on the other side. The Tekoteko is the services emblem and represents all the New Zealand  Army, Navy and Airforce.

The maihi of Tūmatuenga incorporates Tāwhirimātea blowing paroro te kapua. The tanks, planes and ships represent kakari o tewhawhai. The scallop shell pattern links iwi katoa of Te Tau Ihu to this devastating part of our history. The central figure is Tū matuenga.

The maihi of Rongo begins at the top with marino kapua blowing on to Rongo - marae - roa holding a kawakawa leaf as a symbol of peace. The arrow type pattern depicts hihi te ra on to ahuwhenua, representing the farms given to returning soldiers after the second world war. (It remains a contentious issue with Māori that they were never successful in these land ballots). The next depiction is Tama - nui - te - ra .

The Po or uprights are concrete and have the Kōwhaiwhai pattern of the six iwi that make up the Whakatū marae. This was presented to Nelson City Council by iwi for use on suitable public memorials.

On the po are a series of panels with names of members of the 28th Battalion living in the rohe at time of enlisting, and those who lived outside the area but had affiliation with whakapapa here. All enlisted are included whether they did active service or not and whether they died or returned to serve their community after the war.

Funding for the project came from Tau iwi, the RSA, Civic Trust of Nelson and Nelson City Council and all iwi made a contribution towards it.

Anzac Park Cenotaph

This is the main war memorial for the city commemorating all external wars New Zealanders have fought in. The names on three sides of the central memorial pillar relate to both World Wars and were supplied by the Nelson RSA. All were residents of Nelson prior to enlisting for services and living within the boundaries of Nelson, as they were at that time. Residents of Stoke, Wakapuaka and the Whangamoa area are named on other localised memorials. The fourth side makes reference to wars in Malaya 1948-1960, Borneo 1964-66, Vietnam 1964-1972 and Korea 1950-53,  as well as remembering merchant seamen in all wars. Plaques placed in garden beds refer to specific groups such as the 23rd Battalion which is under an olive tree.

Saltwater Bridge Memorial

The war memorial which formed part of Saltwater Creek Bridge before it was moved to Anzac Park. Nelson Provincial Museum

The Anzac Park memorial was originally part of a bridge crossing Saltwater Creek in 1958 and all 15 tonnes of it were moved to the present park site in 1988. The four pillars that were once bridge ends refer to places where major battles occurred during the world wars. 

The Park also has a set of seats donated by the Returned Services Association and individuals commemorating Servicewomen, Ordinance division, J Force and the Royal Navy, EE Wilson and CM Rout. Trees have been planted to commemorate a variety of anniversaries such as the Gallipoli landing and battle of Alamein, as well as service organisations.

Fort Arthur Earthworks
Fort Arthur was an elongated hexagonal earthwork about 136m by 80m, with bastions at each corner, on the flanks of Cathedral Hill. Within the earthworks, on high ground, stood a stockade measuring 48m by 15m. Today,  the remnants of ramparts can be seen, together with a memorial plaque.
Fort Arthur ramparts memorial. Nelson City Council
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Built on the site where Christ Church Cathedral now sits, Fort Arthur was named after Captain Arthur Wakefield and built in September 1843 by the New Zealand Company to provide a safe haven for the settlers of Nelson following 'the Wairau massacre' and growing aggression from local Māori. As well as providing a training ground for the Nelson Militia, the Fort stood as a memorial to those who died at the Wairau.
The Nelson Battalion of Militia was formed 12 August 1845 under the terms of the Militia Act of 1845. This made the Nelson Battalion of Militia the first Army unit to be formed in the South Island and, indeed, one of the first in New Zealand. The Militia Act of 1845, enabled the Governor to form local Militia units in districts that were under threat of hostile actions or emergencies. All males between the ages of 18 and 60, excepting judges, members of the Legislative Council, Māori and clergymen were expected to make themselves available for 28 days service every year. These Militia units were only permitted to operate within 25 mile radius of the settlement, and were consequently used mainly for garrison duties.The battalion paraded and trained three times a day for the first 28 days at Fort Arthur. By 28 November 1845 the last of the Militiamen had completed their service obligations and the unit was disbanded.
Albert Pitt Memorial Gates. Queens Gardens. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 35-R810. Click image to enlarge
Albert Pitt Memorial Gates

The Pitt Memorial Gates at the entrace to Queen's Park were erected in recognition of the Honorable Albert Pitt who played a significant role in the military, government and local affairs of Nelson. Pitt was the Minister of Defence, Lt Colonel of the NZ Militia and Commanding Officer of the Nelson Military District 1877-1899. In 1897 he was the most senior district commander in the colony.

The gates were funded by public subscriptions initiated in 1908 and were  formally unveiled in May 1914. Their quality and beauty reflect the high regard the community held for Pitt. They have a Historic Places Trust category II listing.

Memorial to the fallen in Nelson. Nelson City Council.
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Memorial to the Fallen in Nelson

This memorial is located to the west of the Church Steps on Cathedral Hill. It pays homage to those who died during World War One (1914-18).  A list of those who died, and were living within Nelson's boundaries as they were at that date, can be found on the city cenotaph in Anzac Park. Those who came from Stoke are listed on the Stoke Memorial Hall gates and those from Wakapuaka are listed on a memorial at the Wakapuaka Memorial Hall.

Memorial to the Fallen in the Boer War
A marble plaque sits at the entrance to Nelson Cathedral and complements the Boer war statue that sits within Queens Gardens.
Only thirteen names show on the memorial, not really reflecting the loss of life of New Zealanders in this conflict. Men from across Nelson were part of the many contingents of Mounted Rifles who went away, and the dead may not have been registered as being from Nelson, but from a wider South Island catchment.
The memorial tablet reads: "Erected by the Public School children of Nelson Province in memory of the troopers from this district who lost their lives in the South African War 1899-1902: Leonard Matthews Tarrant, Philip Coster Best, Francis Pahl, John Neighoff Lunn, John Hawksworth, Ralph Vincent James, William Aubrey Jennings, George Hyde, Ernest George Emms, George C.D.Fowler, Joseph Precey Roberts, Robert Ernest Anslow, Sydney C.Harford. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori."

In 1897 the first New Zealand contingent had been taken overseas as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in London. Many signed up for the armed forces as a result of  'jubilee fever' and these soldiers were sent to the Boer War, which started on 12 October 1899 and finished in 1902. They went to South Africa to uphold the British flag in South Africa and gave their lives during 1899 to 1902. Khaki uniforms were introduced at this time for New Zealand soldiers.

The funds for providing this memorial were raised by means of a penny subscription from the children attending school in the Nelson district, and consequently there was a good attendance of young people to witness the ceremony, including the Central School Cadets, when it was unveiled by his Lordship the Bishop of Nelson, assisted by the Rev. J.P. Kempthorne.

Nelson Boys College Scriptorium
The Scriptorium at Nelson College was built in 1924 as a memorial to Nelson College boys who had been killed during World War 1. It has extensive old boy records, including many photographs and Annual journals, plus moving obituaries of those who died during the Boer War, World War 1 & 2 and subsequent conflicts to the present day.  It has records of all the old boys who went away to war, which can be searched on request at the College. Read the stories of Nelsonians Garfield Cornelius Jessop and Major F Stuckey, who both died at Gallipoli.
Stoke Memorial plaque. Nelson City Council
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Stoke Memorial Gates

The memorial plaque is set into the stone surrounds of the gates to the large local Community Hall on Main Road Stoke. The Hall itself was built using community volunteer labour as a "living memorial" to soldiers killed at war.

The Seven names listed are of those who died in World War I, and only include those who were residents of Stoke prior to enlisting for services, observing the boundaries of Stoke as they were at that time.

HMS Neptune Memorial. Nelson City Council
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HMS Neptune Memorial

This is a memorial to four Nelson men, killed in the New Zealand Navy's worst incident involving loss of life.  Don Corbin, Bill Gibbs, Trevor McComish and Lawrie Nalder were killed when the HMS Neptune ran into a minefield on December 19, 1941 off the cost of Libya. A total of 764 Neptune crew members were killed with only one survivor; 150 were New Zealanders. The intention was that the ship would join the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy in the Pacific.

Norman Walton was with a handful of New Zealand sailors on a life raft after the Neptune went down off Libya on December 19, 1941. For five days the raft drifted as one by one the sailors died or quietly drifted off, never to be seen again, until an Italian navy boat rescued Walton. Walton spent 15 months in an Italian prisoner of war camp before he was repatriated to England. He seldom talked about the war and the sinking of the Neptune, until he came to New Zealand in 1991 to unveil a Neptune memorial in Nelson. During that trip he spoke to New Zealand relatives of the crew and began to unburden himself of the guilt and the grief he had carried for more than 50 years.

The HMS Neptune Memorial sits beside the entry to the Nelson Yacht Club boat park and ramp marking an association between the men who died and their love of sailing. 

Trent Memorial plaque. Nelson City Council.
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Memorial to Group Captain LH Trent

Along Trent Drive heading towards Nelson Airport is the Memorial to Henry Trent who was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery during WWII, fighting for the British Royal Air Force.  Leonard Henry (registered as Henry Leonard) Trent was born in Nelson on 14 April 1915, later moving to Takaka and boarding at Nelson College.

Marsden Memorial. Nelson City Council
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Marsden Memorial

A modest stone cairn at the start of one of Marsden Valley's many picturesque walks records the dead from World War II.  Eleven names are listed, three of them are Ching - three brothers who attended Nelson College. 738093; wide 094,097

The Marsden Cemetery includes a Returned Services Association area, with a memorial rose walk leading  to a flagpole as its  central feature.

Wakapuaka Cemetery
Since 1861 some 16,000 people have been buried at Wakapuaka Cemetery.  The Returned Services Association has a special section within the 14 hectares of land that overlooks the Nelson Haven.  There is another RSA section at Marsden Cemetery.  

Burial records for all Nelson cemeteries can be accessed on the cemeteries database.

Wakapuaka Hall

The Community hall is a simple art deco Masonic type concrete construction, typical of the many built in the 1950s in remembrance of World War 2. It was partially funded by the then Waimea County Council and partially by local fundraising from the community. Situated 20km North of Nelson on State Highway 6 a Cairn on the roadside at the front lists those who died in the War, who were registered as residents of Wakapuaka and the Whangamoa area prior to enlisting for services.

2012 (Updated 2023)

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Further sources - Nelson's war memorials



  • Lowe, G. (2005) Lieutenant Colonel Albert Pitt of 'H' battery, Nelson, New Zealand Field Artillery. New Zealand Memories, 52. pp.60-61
  • Parry, G. (2008, November 22) Sea claims souls of southern crew. Otago daily times, p.47 [HMS Neptune]
  • Sharp, J.(1993) The militia. Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies 2(5), pp.45-6
  • Stade, K. (2016) The RSA celebrates 100 years. Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, 8(2), pp.31-42
  • Stade, K. & Wright, K (2019) Lest we forget - Part one: WWI memorials along Nelson's State Highway 6. Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies  8(5), pp.35-47
  • Stade, K. & Wright, K (2020) Lest we forget - Part two: WWI Memorials in the west of Nelson Province Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies  8(6), pp.6-9
  • Stade, K. & Wright, K (2021) Lest we forget - Part three: WWI Memorials in the west of Nelson Province. Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies  9(1), pp.59-71
  • Walton, A. (2003) New Zealand redoubts, stockades and blockhouses, 1840–1848. Doc science internal series. Wellington: Department of Conservation [Fort Arthur]

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