Good Evening and Welcome
It is a great honour to host this prestigious exhibition here in our historic ANZAC Hall. We believe there is no other place more fitting for these displays. Featherston has a relationship with Flanders that runs deeper and is more embedded in our history, than any other place in New Zealand. Its military history dates back to the training camp at Tauherenikau, opened in 1911 which then moved closer to town and greatly expanded to become the Featherston Military Training Camp in January 1916. The majority of soldiers who served in Flanders trained at Featherston. A good many of them would never return to our shores. As we all know, Passchendaele was New Zealand’s bloodiest battle of the Great War, where for 4 long hours a Kiwi was killed or injured every 4 seconds.
In more modern times Featherston and Messines entered into a formal twinning arrangement that now spans over thirty years. The friendship has stood the test of time and remains vitally important to both towns. If you are lucky enough to visit the small village of Messines you will find a beautiful town square with a map of New Zealand in-laid in the pavement. The only town marked on that map is Featherston.
With history like this you would think that it was fait accompli that the exhibition would come here but no! When Passchendaele Museum President Freddy De Clerc and museum Curator Franky Boston visited NZ to arrange the exhibition tour, Featherston was not even on the radar. It was only at the insistence of our good friend Rowland Woods that a visit was arranged. Don and I wished to return some of the wonderful hospitality we had experienced in Belgium so between morning tea at Cornucopia and lunch, with ample good Martinborough pinot noir and a little arm twisting, the lure of the ANZAC Hall was cemented and we secured the exhibition for Featherston. When Franky walked through the door of this hall, he looked around and he said, ‘yes, it has to come here’!
Now ladies and gentlemen a project of this size does not happen with a one-man-band and I would like to say some big thank you’s to everyone that has made it happen.
Firstly to Jo Kane for her work looking after the exhibition in New Zealand.
Next, a huge thank you to my husband Don who liaised directly with the Army to work out the logistics of delivery, organise forklifts, send me off with the horsefloat to pick up display cases, screen and of course coffee. The NZ Army are transporting all of this the length of the country so without them, it wouldn’t be here. We had a fantastic team of helpers to unpack and assist the staff from the Waiouru Army Museum who are supporting the exhibition during its tour.
Another person who deserves a special mention is Robyn Perry. Robyn has organised the very substantial roster of volunteers who are staffing the displays during the month-long stay. It’s a big job and a very vital one. Thank you Robyn and also thank you to all the volunteers themselves for donating their time to this wonderful cause. Last but not least is our resident sparky Garry Thomas. Garry has installed the security system and along with his apprentice Don, wired in several new spotlights and fixed the zip.
In closing, I very much need to thank our local sponsors:
They are listed on the back of your programme and I ask that you support them as they have supported us
Aratoi Museum of Art and History
A & G Electrics
Guten Appetit Catering
Leuven-Belgian Beer Café
The Sign Factory
Ladies and Gentlemen, please put you hands together for our friends in Belgium and all the wonderful people who have made this exhibition a reality in Featherston.