Armistice Day and Anzac Day: It was at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month that the guns on the Western Front fell silent in 1918. Armistice Day on 11 November became the acknowledged day of respect for the fallen in war, commemorated with red Flanders poppies. Australia and New Zealand were also drawn together in ‘mateship’ to mark Anzac Day on 25 April following their shared struggle and loss at Gallipoli in 1915, which also marked a step along the road to nationhood.

Remembrance Day: After the Second World War, Britain and the Dominions, including New Zealand, agreed to change the name and date of Armistice Day to Remembrance Day, now to be observed on the Sunday prior to 11 November (it was later transferred to the second Sunday in November). According to the RSA, ‘Armistice Day’ was no longer viewed as an appropriate title for a day which would commemorate all who served and gave their lives in both World Wars.

War memorials: In general, New Zealand did not use dedicated war memorials as an opportunity to provide for social amenities. Across the country, there are a few halls, libraries, a memorial hospital, and Auckland province built a War Memorial Museum. However, a small number of churches in New Zealand are official war memorials for their community, including Eskdale Memorial Church near Napier and St Barnabas’, Fendalton.

War Memorial Church of St Barnabas: From the turn of the 20th century, there had been a long-term plan within the parish of Fendalton to raise funds to rebuild the wooden First Church of St Barnabas in ‘permanent material’. This aspiration was transformed after the Great War by the desire of the whole community to ensure the lives of the young men of Fendalton who had fought and died overseas were honoured and never forgotten. The stone War Memorial Church of St Barnabas was built in 1926 with architectural beauty, set in landscaped grounds, and decorated with poignant stained glass and artistic carving as a reminder that peace, stability and safeguarding our country’s values and interest come with personal sacrifice. Today, remembrance covers all service and conflicts, and this year marks the 75th anniversary of peace at the end of the Second World War.

Cultural Importance of Memorials: Memorials are an important part of every culture. They allow people to remember a loved one and offer a place where the community can gather and show their respect and gratitude. After traumatic loss, a memorial serves a healing role for grief, and honours those who have died. Remembrance is also part of cultural heritage and encourages upcoming generations to examine and reflect upon the past. In recent years there has been a growing awareness in Aotearoa New Zealand of the value of history and heritage.

Memorials and Heritage in Christchurch: In recent times of tragedy in Christchurch the community has again turned to creating new or restoring older significant cultural sites. Citizens have created ‘new heritage’ in memorials to the Christchurch Earthquake of 22 February 2011, and the Mosque attacks of 15 March 2019. Other memorials have been or are in the process of being restored such as Christ Church Cathedral, recognised as an icon of our city, the Arts Centre, and, of course, St Barnabas Memorial Church in Fendalton.

Keeping our memorial relevant in the 21st century: The Fendalton community as well as parishioners of St Barnabas have a responsibility to prior generations who lived in this locality and built this beautiful heritage memorial church. It is easy for a building to become comfortably part of the landscape without its importance being recognised. Our challenge is to ensure younger generations are aware of the local, national and global history enshrined within this special building. “Lest we forget” will have a hollow ring unless we pass on the history and legacy to our children, grandchildren, and future generations.

Frieda Looser