Bob Jones asks: Should we add a bust of Hitler to our war memorials?

Sir Bob Jones has a more subtle stab at things in the NBR.  Well, as subtle as he is capable of:

In 1945 aged five, I began my daily mile trek along High St in Lower Hutt to Boulcott School. It was a terrifying experience because along High St, on the corner of Military Rd, for which name will soon become clear, lay a massive boulder with an inset plaque, its message lost on me as I had not yet learnt to read. The war still had six months to go but, in my pre-school toddler years, my mother had explained it to my sisters and me, or at least the Pacific war which New Zealanders felt most threatened by, with sketches of small boulders, I later realised, representing islands, from which buck-toothed, bespectacled, bayonet-thrusting Japanese, as they were always inexplicably portrayed, were leaping from boulder to boulder, coming to get us. And so I ran past that boulder, terrified at being pounced on by a lurking buck-toothed Japanese killer.

It’s still there and, when at home, I drive past it a couple of times a week to the Hutt golf club, now over 100 years old. A couple of years back the club amalgamated with Boulcott and for historic reasons I will come to, the new combined club has been renamed Boulcott Heritage Farm Golf Club.

Recently the boulder and golf club have been in the news thanks to two characters, describing themselves as historians, called respectively Warwick Johnston and Ewan Morris.

The boulder commemorates eight British soldiers from the Boulcott garrison, murdered in a dawn raid by an estimated 200 Maoris in May, 1846. In the six years following Waitangi, the lower valley was a constant turmoil with different Maori and European factions at loggerheads with one another over conflicting land claims.

We’re all familiar with the Wakefield fiasco when New Zealand’s first organised settlers arrived on Petone beach to claim their non-existent land parcels sold to them back in England but the quarrelling went far beyond just them.

So the purpose of the small Boulcott garrison was essentially a symbolic peacekeeping force to prevent the factions fighting one another. The garrison lay on a farm owned by a gentleman farmer named Boulcott.

The dawn raid on it was rightly described as a treacherous massacre. After all, the bitterness was not just between Maoris and the settlers but between several iwi and different settler factions. The few survivors chased the Maori raiders back across the Hutt River and some were killed. Subsequently, their leaders were captured, one was hanged and the rest transported to a Tasmanian prison.

Now, 170 years later, it’s all back in the news because of these self-proclaimed historians. Their assertions will not surprise nonsense-wearied New Zealanders. Their protests have been set off by the golf club’s sale of its clubhouse to Summerset and a change of use proposal before the council to build a $100 million retirement home on the site. The club’s amalgamation has allowed a newly designed 18 hole course, plus a nine hole short-hole course and a new larger club-house is to be built.

First Morris, soaking wet in blue jeans and black jacket buttoned to the neck, wants the boulder plaque to “include reference to Maori.” What next, one wonders? Adding a bust of Hitler on our war memorials? If he were a true historian, he would acknowledge that the massacre was a watershed event in the Hutt Valley’s history, allowing its subsequent development, which in turn led to its greatest event, namely my birth in November, 1939.

The other complainant, the unsurprisingly bearded Warwick Johnston has produced numerous small books on the history of, inter alia, Jackson St, Petone, the suburb of Woburn and another on Moera, Petone foreshore, Petone; you get the picture. He has hundreds of equivalents across the land. Secondhand bookshops in our towns and cities abound in largely unsaleable such publications covering every nook and cranny in the land. I don’t mock, mind you (well, just a little) as it’s all grist to the mill, albeit I’d suggest these worthies often lack discernment as to what justifies recording.

Possibly the only person in the land who’s likely to read these usually mundane records is me but then I read absolutely everything, including my life-long pas de deux with the output of harmlessly mad researchers of irrelevancies.

Johnston is outraged as he wrongly believes the site is of “national importance” (I’m not making this up) to our European military history. Specifically, he believes the murdered soldiers’ bones lie under the site. In fact they don’t, the early records making it clear the corpses were promptly buried a mile away on the river bank, but regardless, so what?

His lawyer, Ian McLauchlan, “strongly opposed Summerset’s application,” claiming his client has raised “important issues,” albeit adding to the amusement by unsurprisingly admitting he has little knowledge of the local history despite living in the area for many years. I suspect McLauchlan may be the buyer I’ve long sought for my authentic hand-written postcard written by Cleopatra to Mark Antony.

No sign of Bob losing his faculties.

Rumour has it that he’s about to add some flair to INCITE:Politics as well.

 

– Bob Jones, NBR


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