Topic: Citizen's War Memorial

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The Citizen's War Memorial in Cathedral Square was unveiled on the 9 June, 1937.

Christchurch Cathedral - Cathedral Square - August 1973The Citizen's War Memorial in Cathedral Square was unveiled on the 9 June, 1937.

The Citizens' War Memorial immediately north of the Anglican Cathedral, was unveiled on 9 June 1937 by Colonel S C P Nicholls during a service conducted by Archbishop Julius.

The figures were first modelled in clay by the Christchurch Sculptor William Trethewey, and afterwards reproduced in plaster, and the moulds were forwarded to England where they were cast in bronze by A B Burton.

The memorial comprises six figures, the symbolism of which is as follows:

The figure seated in the centre with outstretched arms, in an attitude of resignation and sacrifice, is symbolic of the mothers of the Empire grieving for their sons.

On the right, facing the Cathedral, is St George in armour, representing valour or protection; on the other side, holding a torch, is Youth.

Next to St George is Peace, holding an olive branch and a dove, and alongside is Justice, blindfolded and holding scales.

The figure at the top showing the sword being broken was at first to be called "Victory", but the War Memorial Committee decided against this and it has no name.

The idea of a  was first presented as early as 1920 in a letter toThe Press by Mr George Gould chairman of Pyne Gould and Guiness, a stock and station firm. Gould's proposal was in direct competition with plans for a Bridge of Remembrance. The subsequent discord over contributions that had been raised was eventually resolved when it was agreed to share the money between the two projects. For thirteen years Gould and his supporters battled for permission from the City Council for Godley's vacated site in the centre of the Square. The Council's continued refusal caused Gould to declare that "the opposition came from half a dozen men who could not resist the unusual sensation of being able to defeat the hopes and desires of their betters."1 It wasn't until Godley was repositioned in his original site in 1933 that the Council conceded the space left beside the Cathedral.

As the memorial site was on the Christchurch Cathedral grounds the Cathedral chapter laid down some stipulations on the design. They required that the memorial have a central cross and "be of inspiring character."2 William Trethewey a local sculptor approached the architect G.A Hart of the firm Hart and Reese and together they composed a detailed design that met with the requirements of the Chapter.

The mandatory cross was made from Portland stone left over from the building of the Auckland Museum. The cross sprouted from a group of six allegorical figures. The figures symbolised youth, justice, peace, sacrifice, valour and victory. Trethewey retained individual features by basing his figures on actual people. For example, peace imitated the character of his daughter and youth was modelled on one of his workmen.3 The figures were cast at A.B Burtons foundry in England under the supervision of Trethewey.

The Citizen's War Memorial was unveiled on the 9 June, 1937, a date that was seventeen years after the idea had been first presented.

1 The Sorrow and the Pride, p132. The Press, 30, 31 Jan, 1922, 29 May, 1923

2 Mclean, C & Phillips, J; The Sorrow and the Pride, New Zealand War Memorials, (Wellington, Department of Internal Affairs, 1990). p133. This is actually their reference, but I did not locate the Trethewey Collection

3 Ibid, p135

 

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