Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A memorial amongst the lizards of Albany

Back in March this year Bruce Comfort (who works in with the NZ Memorials website) contacted me regarding a war memorial in Albany comprised of trees planted for each of those past pupils of Albany Primary School who had died during World War I. The memorial, now in the grounds of Albany Senior High School (the primary school moved due to space and traffic problems, seeing as it was sited alongside what is now a busy highway) is hard to get to.

I offered to ask my friends Bill and Barbara from Torbay Historical Society if they would mind venturing into Albany to see what they could do in the way of images.

Well, it's still a difficult place to capture. For one thing, it is fenced off, as a native lizard conservation area. There really is no going onto the site itself anymore, without disturbing the habitat set up for the reptiles.

 Bill and Barbara's notes from their email to me: "This is taken from the path behind the school  main block  ie.  nearest to the road."

 "This is a close up of the plaque from the other direction."

"From the same place as the previous photo.  The plaque is in the shade."

 "Showing 4 trees with the carved one near the palisade surrounding the lizard colony."

"The tree on the right might be one of the memorial ones?"

The earliest school in Albany, according to AMR Dean in The Schools of Albany (1976) was one run by the Presbyterians 1865-1866.  In 1876, the second school was constructed on land "between the two bridges". It remained on that site until 1975 when it relocated to the site of a former "clay quagmire" in Bass Road.

As for the memorial, here's what the book has to say:
The World War took its toll from most communities in New Zealand and Albany was no exception. Mrs. Boscawen left at the end of 1917 when her husband was killed in action. The following ex-pupils of Albany School gave their lives in the War:

  • Corporal William Wright Gibson: attended the school between July 1899 and September 1907; served with the Auckland Mounted Rifles, was wounded in action in November 1917 and died in hospital in Cairo soon afterwards.

  • Trooper Joseph Clifford Low; attended the school between October 1902 and September 1906; served with the Auckland Mounted Rifles and was killed in action at Gallipoli in August 1915.

  • Private Edward Quentin Low; attended the school between October 1902 and July 1908; served in the 1st Battalion of the Wellington Infantry, and died of his wounds in France in October 1918.

  • Lance Corporal Henry Peter Nelson; attended the school between December 1898 and November 1904; served with the 4th Mounted Rifles, and was killed in action in France in June 1917.

  • Trooper William John Wright; attended the school between November 1899 and September 1907; served with the Auckland Mounted Rifles, and was killed in action at Gallipoli in August 1915.

In 1918 a grove of six memorial trees was planted in the school grounds and each tree bore the name of a soldier who had not returned from the war and who had spent his youth at the school. Shortly afterwards, a protective fence was erected around these trees. There has been considerable confusion about the number of trees that were originally planted, but we believe that we have sufficient evidence to show that it was six and not five as several people have suggested. The reason that six were planted was that the extra one was for Edward Monstedt who died as a result of his activities in the South African War in 1902.
According to the Cenotaph database, Trooper Edward Charles Monstedt served with the 10th New Zealand Mounted Rifles and embarked on 14 April 1902 on the Drayton Grange, but died 9 August 1902 of measles and septic pneumonia on Somes Island in Wellington Harbour. He was apparently not the only death from disease at that time. There were dozens sick on the Brittanic which was used to bring the troopers home, many with measles, and an inquiry was held in 1902 as to the lack of healthy accomodation on board that ship which carried 1005 troopers from Durban. Complaints were made by those who survived the quarantine at Somes Island that men suffering with measles and pneumonia were left out on the deck in the cold, and given only cold water to drink. The report on the inquest by the Transport Committee was a lengthy one. (Otago Witness, 1 October 1902)

Poor Trooper Monstedt's service had barely begun before he was forced to head back home -- and to a lonely, cold death on Somes Island. I hope his tree is among the possible four survivors there at Albany, amongst the lizards.


  1. What a beaut piece of history! Nice job!

    I wonder if that Mrs Boscawen's husband mentioned in the post was any relation to this Boscawen whose grave i photographed but whom luckily made it home.


  2. Prior to the High School placing a plaque on the concrete memorial there was a bipod mounted on the top. Does anyone have a photo of the memorial before the plaque was placed on it?
    thanks Nick

  3. Do you have an email contact, Nick, should someone turn up with an image for you?