Friday, July 8, 2011

Monument to Camp Hale

Back in May, when I last visited the Auckland War Memorial Museum, I spotted this plinth just outside the front of the building. It looks like it has been resited from somewhere else -- perhaps further down the hill towards the north (folks, please do fill me in if you know more). I do know that the Court of Honour around the cenotaph has been redeveloped.

This is a memorial to Camp Hale, the US forces barracks sited on the Domain during World War II.  There were a number of American military facilities dotted around the Auckland region at that time, including at Western Springs, and the site of today's Avondale College and Intermediate (my old schools).

Here in the enlargement from the plaque you can see the museum top right, the Court of Honour area (laid out and levelled by unemployed workers under a government subsidy scheme in 1929, and consecrated on 28 November that year), and just below, the barracks. These were shifted after the war to Titoki Street just behind the museum to become transit housing for those waiting for State housing assistance -- as also happened withe the Western Springs camp, during the 1950s.

I wonder how many visitors, amongst those who stream into the museum each day, bother to look down, and wonder what on earth is the cement pyramid-like thing doing there by the path, four-sided but with with only two plaques?


  1. It's a wonderful piece of history isn't it :)
    Now you've raised the point of the 4 recesses, i might ask around and see if more than 2 plaques were originally intended.

    Lovely post

  2. Thanks, Sandy. Perhaps they could include images of the museum itself being built in the 1920s? That might be cool.

  3. Interestingly, yesterday at Onehunga near the small childrens playground at the back of St Peter's Churchyard by the road that leads round to the back of postie plus etc a monument exactly the same as the one at the museum [with different plaques of course]. I'm thinking they were council produced ones? Had at least 1 side that had no plaque. I was passenger in car and we didn't stop. Thought it was hilarious though..seeing one after you'd done this post!


  4. Yes, the four-sided monument style is a standard for Council, at least up to the advent of the Super City. I can understand if they just have three plaques, leaving one side empty, but -- in the museum's case, there's a wealth of images to be had. Surely another couple could have been arranged for one of Auckland's most historic buildings?

    1. Still the standard, even in the new city.
      That is also why the enamel plaques don't say '...Auckland Council...' but simply the non chest-thumping and more neutral '...City of Auckland Historic Place...', which remains valid despite political changes.
      Some local boards want to use bronze in-footpath plaques, but these tend not to survive long because of the escalating price for copper and Copper alloys, along with unscrupulous metal merchants!
      Basically this four-sided plinth is used where no appropriate structure survives (as at the Camp Hale site), rather than as the recipent of multiple messages about other (perhaps surviving) objects such as the Museum. If a place deserves a plaque and still stands, it is normal (and the global standard) to attach it to a suitable part of the item.
      The reason for the four recesses is to allow for the rare circumstance where more than on plaque is needed. In most cases it is just the one, as for Camp Hale, and the Onehunga one commemorating Elizabeth Yates' election as mayor of Onehunga, a British Empire first.

  5. From memory my family were one of the first " tentants " in "Camp Hale " when it was shifted to Titoki Street around 1947 while we waited for a State House we got a brand new one in Meadowbank and my parents eventually purchased it and added to it.At a later date I also purchased a ex State House in Meadowbank and also had a new one built in Grand Drive. I spent a total of approx 35 years in the Meadowbank area Im now retired and live in Kamo , Whangarei