Retirees from all over the Whau gathered at the New Lynn RSA for an afternoon of delicious food, fabulous entertainment, connections with other seniors and some encouraging messages, at an event sponsored by the Whau Local Board in early March.
The event was designed to engage our senior community in the decisions that affect the future of the Whau.
Whau Local Board Chairperson Kay Thomas commented, “We were thrilled at the huge turnout. We really value the input of our seniors and thought hard about how to engage them. It’s important to us that our whole community is involved in the decisions that affect our future.”
Also attending were representatives from Grey Power and Age Concern, as well as members of the Whau Board.
Photos [above and below]: The 3rd (Auckland) Mounted Rifles at camp on Avondale racecourse, May 1912. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections (AWNS-19120509-12-2 & AWNS-19120509-12-4) (Price Photo Co).
Avondale Racecourse was home to some unique groups who later became legendary. In WWI these were the Maori (Pioneer) Battalion and the NZ Tunnelling Corp of Engineers. In WWII there were Japanese POWs held there for a short time after the Featherston uprising and that is all additional to the US Navy Mobile Hospital 6 which was built nearby at the site of Avondale College.
So, how did all this come about?
The racecourse dates back to 1890 and was originally a raupo swamp. The 1909 Defence Act led to the Volunteer Territorial Army being formed.
In May 1912, at the end of the farming season, the first annual training camp for 383 men of the Auckland Mounted Rifles was held at the racecourse.
Men and horses arrived at Avondale from around Auckland, Matakana, Waiuku and Clevedon on special trains. It was a case of ‘join the Territorials and bring your own horse’!
A complete kitchen staff cooked all the meals for the men for, as the Star put it, “As most people are aware, mounted men do not cook, having quite enough to do to look after their horses.”
The picket lines of horses ran through the tents so the men were sleeping in close proximity their mounts. A Herald reporter who stayed overnight reported, “In the horse lines, just outside the tent, all was quiet, save for the “champ, champ” of horses at their feed”.
Some of those at the camp would have a few years later been at Gallipoli. Ironically, the Mounted Rifles left their horses in Egypt when they went to Gallipoli.
The Maori (Pioneer) Battalion
Just two days after the First World War was declared on 4th August 1914, Maori members of Parliament “declared their desire of a Maori force going to war.” This was eventually agreed by the British Government but then the NZ Government started to have reservations. This led to the primary role in WWI of the Maori Battalion being skilled labour, which frustrated the men wo wanted to fight.
Almost 500 men were at the Avondale racecourse for four months in 1914-15. They called the camp Waiatarua. They came from all over New Zealand, even from the Chatham Islands. The Waikato Maoris abstained however, due to ongoing grievances with the Crown.
A variety of amusements were made available at the camp to reduce boredom after hours. The Patriotic League looked into getting a piano for the camp, as there were “a big percentage of musicians”. It was reported that among the contingent was a composer who intended to sit for the second portion of his Bachelor of Music degree.
There had been early fears of typhoid at the camp so they were all inoculated against it. However, anyone already with typhoid would not have been protected. With primitive sanitation conditions, things were not ideal. Then a case of typhoid occurred in the area and the press announced that typhoid had broken out in the camp. This could have led to the Battalion’s farewell from Auckland being muted. The next time Avondale racecourse would be used as a training camp, the Army took great pains to dig extensive drainage lines which for decades would have the local residents certain that tunnels had been dug under the racecourse.
The Pioneer Battalion served as a garrison on Malta before going to Gallipoli on 3 July 1915. By August the contingent was reduced from 677 officers and men to only 60. This later rose to 132 after the return of sick and wounded. By April 1916 the battalion was in France digging trenches, being the original troops to earn the name “diggers” from the British. Yet another thing subsequently pinched from us by the Aussies!
One of the more bizarre methods of warfare in desperate battles of WWI was tunnelling under enemy lines to try to blow them up. Initiated by the Germans, both sides quickly became involved in underground warfare, sometimes encountering the enemy there.
Responding to calls from the British, NZ raised its own Tunnelling Corp from miners (excluding the war critical coal miners).
Avondale racecourse was chosen to be the training camp. JC Neill in his 1922 book on the NZ Tunnelling Company, suggested that the choice was “the grossest of blunders” choosing an area “within easy reach of New Zealand’s largest and gayest city.” The effect was described as shaking up Auckland as it had never been shaken before.
The men were skilled miners and tradesmen, so the training was military – saluting, dress, military law, health and sanitation.
The NZ Tunnelling Corp of Engineers left Avondale on 18 December 1915. In JC Neill’s opinion, “the only enthusiasm the citizens [of Auckland] showed to the company was when they bade it farewell”.
In France they made their mark first at the Labyrinth north of Arras. They were credited with the discover of old underground quarries from the seventeenth century.
Based on the Trilogy of Essays, They Trained Beside the River, 2009, by Lisa J Truttman. With thanks to Lisa for her help and guidance.
Everyone has a different story to tell about their place, and a different way to tell it. Over the next month you’ll be able to experience three different ways of looking at Avondale through guided walks as part of the Urban Walking Festival 2020 as well as participate in what according to Jon Turner is “the best bush walk in Tāmaki Makaurau”.
Local resident Rajeev is leading a photo walk through the Avondale town centre on the 18th of April. He invites you to bring your phone and, with his guidance and some photography tips, take photos of the town centre, recording the streets and people you love. This walk is ideal for people who want to learn to use their phone cameras better. Walk starts at 10 am.
On ANZAC day you can take the opportunity to learn more about the long history of the armed forces in Avondale. Our host, John Subritzky, is passionate about local history and specialises in mechanised military transportation. He will be assisted by Living History Re-enactor Brett Curtis, who will give children (and interested adults) the opportunity to participate in a military drill. Walk starts at 2pm.
Our final walk in Avondale is a Walking Wānanga on Saturday the 2nd of May at 2pm. It focusses on the on the whakapapa, oral histories and movements of Tāmaki iwi through the Whau area and is led by Tamati Patuwai and Pita Turei.
Over in Lynfield on Saturday 2nd of May Jon Turner is leading a four hour walk along the beaches and cliff tops of Manukau coast departing from Manukau Domain and finishing at Onehunga beach. The walk goes up and down stairs and along the beach. A good level of fitness is required as well as shoes that can get wet and dirty.
All of the walks are part of the Urban Walking Festival, an Auckland-wide festival, presented by Panuku, Auckland Development that revolves around local people celebrating their place, sharing what makes it special and advocating for what they love about it through walking and conversation.
For more details and bookings visit urbanwalking.nz or facebook.com/urbanwalkingfestival/
While we hope to still be able to lead our walks at some stage in the future, we are investigating creating resources around the planned walks so that everyone can still be inspired to walk our urban spaces even if we can't walk together. Check online to keep up to date.
Glovers Real Estate launches new office in Blockhouse Bay
The Senior Citizens’ Association hall has maintained a high profile in the past few months. It was sold last December, and now the Senior Citizens Assn Trustees have the task of distributing funds. A call was made last month for charitable organisations that benefit seniors in the Blockhouse Bay area to apply for funds (see last month’s Beacon).
New owners Glovers Real Estate were the successful purchasers of the building, and after nearly three months of painting, building work and decision making the hall has been repurposed into a contemporary new real estate office.
Glovers Real Estate was started in 1983 by Bill and Donna Glover, and is now in its fourth decade of providing real estate services to West Auckland. In 2013 the company was purchased by Kay Niepold, Sam Bellairs and Simon Bradley, all of whom had been with the firm for some time.
Having been established in Titirangi for 37 years, Glovers are excited to now offer real estate services to the community in and around Blockhouse Bay, with Simon Bradley at the helm as manager. Simon and his wife settled in Blockhouse Bay when they arrived in 2006 and are happy to be raising their family there. “We love the suburb and everything it has to offer”, says Simon.
Simon is proud of Glovers’ take on helping people buy and sell homes. “All our properties are priced,” he said, “and we don’t do open homes or public auctions. Instead we take potential buyers through individually. This helps with negotiations and to get to know buyers, and takes the stress out of the process of selling a home, for both seller and buyer.
“Our intention is to provide the best personal real estate service. We love helping sellers sell and buyers buy”, says Simon.
Simon also extends an open invitation to pop in and see the renovations if you are in the area or visiting the community centre next door. “We’d be happy to catch up for a chat and a cuppa”, he says.