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In 1919, following the end of the Great War, the Kaiapoi Patriotic Committee considered several options for the town’s war memorial.
It initially decided on a Memorial Town Hall. However, escalating costs meant that committee was replaced by a new War Memorial Committee, who then selected local stonemason William Thomas Trethewey to sculpt a statue to stand at the east end of town by the Kaiapoi River.
Trethewey sculpted the 10 foot statue from a five tonne block of marble imported from Carrara, Italy, a fine-grain but durable stone, and stood on a base prepared by Daniel Berry, an associate. A former Kaiapoi serviceman was enlisted to model for Trethewey to base his design on and the final statue was unveiled on 26 April 1922. It portrayed a Digger, at rest after a desperate charge and captured in its stance the effects of war and a grim determination to carry on despite the odds. In his speech at the unveiling, Kaiapoi Mayor J H Blackwell described the statue as capturing the spirit of ‘a typical Anzac’. With this memorial, Trethewey set a benchmark for others around New Zealand and it is still considered one of the finest.
In 2004 the Memorial Reserve underwent a revamp. The statue, together with memorials to other war veterans, stands on the bank of the Kaiapoi River as a quiet place of remembrance.
MacLean, Chris and Phillips, Jock - The Sorrow and the Pride : New Zealand War Memorials. Wellington : GP Books, c. 1990.
Phillips, Jock - 'Trethewey, William Thomas 1892-1956'. Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 16 December 2003. URL: www.dnzb.govt.nz
Pryor, Ted - The Rising of the Phoenix : a tribute to the life and works of William Thomas Trethewey, sculptor of Christchurch. 2002.