Waitaki Boys’ High School’s links to World War 1 run far deeper than just bricks and mortar.
As Anzac Day approaches, the school is preparing for its usual Anzac service, which will take place on May 2 when staff and pupils have returned from the term break.
About 700 Waitaki old boys fought during World War 1 and 119 of them were killed. Several staff members also died.
The best-known casualty was ex-pupil Donald Forrester Brown, who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry on the Western Front.
In World War 2, 137 old boys were killed.
Waitaki senior master Ken McCallum said the sacrifice the former pupils and staff made was ingrained in the school’s culture.
“When you look at the background and the district’s background, you can kind of see why.”
When World War I ended, old boys of the school and legendary rector Frank Milner wanted to create a fitting memorial to the fallen.
Mr McCallum said that led to the idea that spawned the Hall of Memories, considered by former governor-general Sir Jerry Mateparae as the second most important war memorial in the country.
“When the war ended, the old boys at the time were quite strong on wanting to do something in remembrance. They settled on a hall of remembrance and that’s how the project started.”
A building committee launched a fundraising appeal in 1920, Governor-General Lord Jellicoe laid the foundation stone in 1923, and the hall was officially opened on March 16, 1927 by the Duke of York.
The hall features memorabilia such as flags, trophies and plaques.
Some of the furniture is made from teak salvaged from World War 1 battle-cruisers New Zealand and Powerful
Mr McCallum said panels lining the hall’s walls bore the names of old boys and staff who served in World War 1, World War 2, the Korean War, the Malaysian conflict and the Vietnam War.
Old boys have also served in more recent conflicts, including those in Iraq, Afghanistan and East Timor.
“It’s a memorial for all men involved in conflict,” he said.
“All of those things linked together basically give our assembly a special place to mark the military past of New Zealand.”
In the lead-up to Anzac Day, some of the school’s year 9 pupils have learned about the impact World War 1 had on families linked to the school, specifically former pupils and staff.
“I talked about my family, and as a result of World War 1, a family farm in Southland had to be sold because no-one was left to work it.”
The importance of the Hall of Memories and the relevance of the school’s grass quad were also discussed.
Mr McCallum said the school’s pupils were respectful of the past, and he considered his job as “historical caretaker” to make sure that continued.