Go to almost any small town in this country and you can find a war memorial, and most likely a war memorial hall too.
The ‘Miners in Khaki’ left for the war after the initial rush of patriotic enlistments, and the unit did not return until April 24 1919, by which time the country was ready to move on.
Their story was largely forgotten. In Waihi and in mining communities throughout New Zealand where others also enlisted these men have been largely unrecognised, until now.
Waihi Heritage Vision has built a 7.5 metre high memorial to the New Zealand Engineers Tunnelling Company at Gilmour Reserve in Waihi.
Members of Waihi Heritage Vision who have been working on recognition for the specialised group of miner soldiers believe Waihi is a suitable place to remember them.
Around 90 men left local mines as Tunnelling Company enlistments. Sixteen have been identified as having been buried in the local cemetery, including at least two who died as a result of war injuries.
Planning for the memorial began over two years ago. Nick Brumder, a recent Waihi arrival from Texas is a sculptor and ironmonger whose work is well known in the United States.
The 7.5 metre tall sculpture takes its cues from the five sided columnar basalt of the region and the ‘T’ insignia of overseas tunnelling units. This is topped by a globe which echoes the Tunnellers motto Inga Wahi Katoa – Everywhere,
Just recently industrial supply company BGH Group has come on board the project with a generous offer of sponsorship.
Cameron Talbut, a director of the group of companies says that for him the decision to provide assistance was easy.
“As a locally owned and operated company, we have had a productive 25-year relationship with the mining and tunnelling industries in New Zealand.
“In addition my grandmother’s family came from a coal mining background in Scotland and we also have links to the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand Tunnelling Companies of World War One.
The timing was right and for me, both personally and professionally, this is a good project for us to be become involved in.”
Cameron Talbut placing a wreath on behalf of the people of Canada.