Soldiers of Hataitai
May 8, 2018
It’s a harrowing picture of the grim toll war took on one New Zealand suburb.
Louise Brockway, a resident of the Wellington suburb of Hataitai, has made it her mission to document all the World War I veterans who came from the suburb.
She has created a unique memorial in the form of over 160 posters, profiling each soldier, to show World War I’s impact on the community.
The project began in February after Brockway found out two WWI veterans had lived in her house on Hohiria Road.
After doing some research, Brockway found that one of them, Frederick A Nees, died of wounds on September 1, 1918, at the age of 26.
“His story has always touched me because he was so young and just starting out in life.
“Because it’s the hundredth year since the first war ended, I was walking out the gate and turned back and thought ‘well I might stick something up on my fence about him.'”
She later decided it would be more impactful to have a collection of posters grouped together.
On ANZAC day, she displayed groups of posters in four locations around the suburb which mapped the lives of soldiers who served in the war 100 years ago.
“The project was to find and do a short profile of all the people in Hataitai who served in World War I.”
Brockway said she became excited by the project when she realised how many Hataitai people had served in the war.
Her excitement turned to sadness as she realised the magnitude of the war’s impact on the suburb, after the introduction of conscription in 1916, which meant young men no longer had a choice about whether they went to war.
“It’s sad. I thought it must have been like psychological terrorism. If you missed this month, you might have a chance next month.”
Appeals against conscription were often made and based on the need to care for elderly parents. It was common for young men to plead they had older brothers fighting and needed someone to look after their family.
Many young men in Hataitai were able to avoid going to war, but others were not as fortunate.
“You walk through and some things stop you. You think ‘oh my god, he’s lost his leg.’
Brockway said she did not want to celebrate war with her project, because she would never want her son to go to war. Instead she wanted to acknowledge and remember young Hataitai soldiers who could have had very different lives.
“I’ve got a son and I don’t want him anywhere near war. No, not my son.”