We seek to remember the 60,000 men who, in World War 1, went through Featherston Military Training Camp, New Zealand’s largest-ever military camp, by gifting a national commemorative sculpture to the town of Featherston. We also want to highlight the significance of the Camp in local and national history. Featherston Military Training Camp was built by the Public Works Department in 1915 following the outbreak of the First World War. Situated near the small town of Featherston, gateway to the Wairarapa, it was opened on 24 January 1916. The Camp depended on Featherston and its residents for essential supply and support services.
The area known to local iwi as Paetumokai in the Wairarapa first sprouted a settler’s homestead in around 1847 and was originally known as Burlings. Five decades later the burgeoning township of Featherston had around 700 inhabitants.
A watershed moment in the town’s history came with the establishment of the military camp nearby in 1916. The effect that the Camp had on the town was indelible. The population of the area ballooned fivefold and much of the industry in the township and its civic life revolved around its relationship with the Camp.
Today, Featherston is twinned with the small town of Messines in Belgium, site of a significant battle during World War I where many of the recruits who trained at Featherston fought and perished.
You might have had a grandparent who trained or worked at the Camp, or belonged to a family that was associated with Featherston during that era. We’re rounding up as many personal stories from those days as we can. If you are descended from someone, we’d really appreciate it if you’d drop us a line!
Collage of archive images of the Camp (Courtesy of Wairarapa Archives)
A collection of tales about the recruits, camp staff and townsfolk of the day. We’re on a mission to gather up as many of these stories as we can. Could you provide us with any?
When the original idea was first floated, a handful of local history enthusiasts took up the challenge; however, the number of supporters swelled such that it would be no exaggeration to claim that the whole community moved in behind the project. A number of local, regional and national organisations came to the party too. Our collective efforts have seen the project come to spectacular fruition.
It is an exciting project and gives due recognition and acknowledgement to our history. I look forward to attending the unveilling at the Armistice Day commemorations in November 2018.Mayor of Masterton District
This work will emphasise the international, national and local significance of the Camp while being cognisant of younger generations and a hopeful future. We wish you every success. Heoi anu naku.Kaumatua, Papawai Marae Trust
It is especially important, as our country marks the centenary of the First World War, that we appropriately remember Featherston Military Camp and all who passed through it between 1916 and 1919.Former Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage
It remains an important national historic site, and an appropriate memorial in Featherston to the place and the men, would remind us of the camp and Featherston’s link.Co-convenor WW100 Wairarapa
Your proposal has great significance to Featherston as the Camp was the hub, home and training ground from many thousands of soldiers destined for the battles on the Western Front.President of the Featherston RSA
Featherston Military Camp is certainly a place of national and international importance – as well as a place of special significance in the South Wairarapa.Former Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage
This is an important project fully deserving of support as part of New Zealand’s commemoration of the centenary of the First World War.Massey University
We are confident that a fitting and stunning public design work will complement the new site, signal clearly Featherston’s connections with its military heritage and further lift South Wairarapa’s profile of art, culture and history.Regional co-ordinator
Paul Dibble is an internationally recognised sculptor. We feel that a work of this calibre would add significantly to the redevelopment of Featherston’s civic square.Manager, Gow Langsford Gallery
The training camp is not just of regional and national significance – but of international significance as well!Featherston Heritage Complex Society
We offer you our unqualified support in your endeavours to promote a memorial to the Military Camp which was based in Featherston from 1916 onwards.ANZAC Club Society
SWDC believe the proposed sculpture will be a huge draw card for Featherston. Not only will it be a poignant reminder of the town’s history but it will serve as a key focal point in the town square. We fully support the project and urge everyone to help make this dream a reality.Mayor, South Wairarapa District
Nigel Allardyce, Noeline Arnott, Anne Atkinson, C Batista, Bella Villa Bed & Breakfast, Romain Busby, Lee Carter, Frank Cody, Brendan Coneglan, Anna Coneglan, Anne Conroy, The Coory Family, Bruce & Margaret Craig, Joan Dickens, Penelope Dunkley, Margaret Dunton, Julie Elstone, Maggie Flynn, Gus Evans, David Flynn-Coutts, D S Forbes, Dayle Harwood, John Gow, John Hodder, C J Holley & C K Miller, Sarah Hutchings, Anne Hynds & Derek McCluskie, John Jamieson, T & M E Jane, C Levien, Susan McDonald, Joy McDowall, Diane MacKenzie, Ken Mckenzie, Messines Books, Enid Meyer, Marshall Owens, Ken & Maria Pasco, the Randle Family, Jennifer Reichenbach-Sisk, Kate Ricketts, Yvonne Riddiford, Erica Tenquist, Jo White, Debra Whitehouse
…as well as our many anonymous donors!