WW1 forest planting in Thames 11 August 2015 Rhodes Park is the latest of the Coromandel's World War 1 forests Students from Thames South, St Francis, Parawai, Moanataiari and Te Puru Schools braved the winter chill to plant the newly landscaped area at Rhodes Park as part of the World War 1 Forest Trees Project. The new area is also directly accessible from the Hauraki Rail Trail at the entrance to Thames. Kaumatua Wati Ngamane opened the ceremony, followed by speeches by Deputy Mayor Peter French, Local RSA President Mark Binning and Smart Environmental Head Landscaper Howard Saunders. [Pictured above: Kaumatua Wati Ngamane] [Above and below: Deputy Mayor Peter French] [Below: RSA Thames President Mark Binning] The students, teachers, parents and representatives from the other supporting agencies planted 249 trees - one for each of the soldiers from Thames who died during the bloody conflicts from 1914–1918. Thames South School students had worked with The Treasury to research the names of the soldiers, so that the volunteer planters would be able to acknowledge each of the men by writing their names on the respective tags. Watch the clip of Riva Gunn and parent helper Kylie Cook tagging one of the trees. Small version (MP4 8MB) [Above and below: Riva Gunn (L) and parent helper Kylie Cook (R) check names before Kylie writes the name on the tag.] Once the planting is complete, our Customer Services Team Leader, Ben Mitchell-Allam follows up with the GPS part of the project, mapping the names of the men to each GPS-plotted tree. To donate toward the trees, see here for more information. This project is supported by Ngati Maru, Thames-Coromandel District Council, Waikato Regional Council, and the RSA. The next planting is at 11am on 5th September at Tangitarori Lane, Pauanui, which commemorates the Sinai-Palestine campaign. Women of Empire Deputy Mayor Peter French also included a remarkable exhibition in his opening words. "I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone that Thames will be celebrating the “Women of Empire” between the 16th and 26th of November," he said. "This exhibition will pay tribute to the New Zealand and Australian women (the ANZAC women) who played such an important part both overseas supporting our brave soldiers on the warships, at Gallipoli, in Egypt and on the Western front in Europe, and at home: keeping businesses, farms and households afloat and the countries running while their menfolk were away." The exhibition has Thames Community Board support and is the only one of its kind in Australasia, displaying in only three New Zealand locations this year: Waiouru, Thames and Nelson. You can find out more information about the Women of Empire exhibition here. Speech Here is Deputy Mayor Peter French's full speech: Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa. Good morning everyone and welcome. I wish to acknowledge Kaumatua Wati Ngamane, Local RSA President Mark Binning and other RSA representatives, King’s Empire veterans Vice President Peter James, Members of the Treasury, TCDC elected members and staff, other invited guests, volunteers, school children, ladies and gentlemen. I wish to convey to you apologies from Mayor Glenn Leach, Board Chair Strat Peters and King’s Empire Vets President Grant Box. Welcome to this historic day which sees us honouring those brave soldiers from Thames who made the ultimate sacrifice, their lives, during World War 1. Thank you for your attendance. Today will see the planting of 249 trees – one for each of the soldiers from Thames who died during the bloody conflicts from 1914 – 1918. They lived in and around Thames. They knew this river, they walked this land, they stood and looked at these magnificent hills. Sights they were never to experience again. For these brave 249 men, they were destined to never come home. They died in foreign fields and their bodies lie in the graveyards of Gallipoli, or the Somme, on Messines Ridge or any number of other battlefields. Yet their spirit lives on. It is particularly fitting that local school children will be helping to plants these 249 trees today, as we pass on the memory of the sacrifices made to the youth of today. I understand that the Thames South School students; working in conjunction with The Treasury, have researched the names of each of these soldiers who have fallen. It also gives us an opportunity to remember our Maori heritage and to honour those who served and died in this war. Chunuk Bair was the first time Maori fought under the New Zealand flag, losing 17 members of the Maori contingent and had 89 wounded during that battle. Today; as we pay tribute to those who laid down their lives, the students will have the opportunity to recite the name of each individual soldier at the time of planting each tree named in honour of our fallen heroes. And that’s why planting trees is such a powerful symbol, for what we are creating today is a living memorial. In these plantings, we are not just honouring the past but also building the future. This memorial forest will be here for many generations to come. And the school children planting here today will be able to bring their grandchildren to this site to see the beautiful forest that has been created. For Thames itself, this Rhodes Park site will be an attractive legacy at the entrance to town. Sitting in full view, right beside the State Highway and with a path that draws people visiting Thames to stop and wander through the memorial forest. This place; like many others being created around the Coromandel Peninsula, will become a place of reflection and remembrance. It will become one of this community’s contributions to the WW1 Memorial Forests Project which has been established in each of our Community Board areas. We now have memorial forests in Whangamata, in Tairua, at Cathedral Cove, in Whitianga and in Coromandel. Thames is the latest site to join. On 5th September we are planning to launch the next site at Tangitarori Lane in Pauanui. As these forests develop around the Coromandel, the spirit of these brave soldiers (and also their wives, families and loved ones who suffered from their loss) is given a fitting tribute. This site is also a wonderful legacy following on from “The Field of Remembrance” an idea from Community Board Member Craig Cassidy, who also tenders his apology today. That initiative ensures a cross is placed at the Civic Centre on each day when we lost one of our brave soldiers. One cross for each soldier from Thames who died in WW1 through to the anniversary of the end of the war. Today is also the anniversary of the day Ataturk reclaimed Chunuk Bair, 100 years ago. Chunuk Bair was the only success by the Allies for this whole campaign, albeit short lived. Today we also need to recognise that Thames had already lost 32 sons – 11 of them in the four days between 7th and 11th August. We will remember them! It is my pleasure now to invite the President of Thames RSA, Mark Binning, to say a few words. … [Speech] Thank you Mark. I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone that Thames will be celebrating the “Women of Empire” between the 16th and 26th of November.” This exhibition will pay tribute to the New Zealand and Australian women (the ANZAC women) who played such an important part both overseas supporting our brave soldiers on the warships, at Gallipoli, in Egypt and on the Western front in Europe, and at home: keeping businesses, farms and households afloat and the countries running while their menfolk were away. This exhibition has Thames Community Board support and is the only one of its kind in Australasia, displaying in only three NZ locations this year: Waiouru, Thames and Nelson. Keep an eye out for more information on that. Thank you all again for your attendance today and to those who have participated in putting this wonderful legacy together for inception today, a day to remember.