Friday, July 8, 2011

Takapuna School War Memorial

While in Takapuna in May with friends, I spotted these gates as we went past in their car, and said, "I'll come back to get a photo on a good day." Took me a wee while, but I got there last month.

These memorial gates at Takapuna School on Anzac Road were unveiled 10 May 1923 by Governor-general Viscount Jellicoe.
Nothing could be more appropriate as a memorial to the old pupils of the Takapuna Public School and to the other men of the district who served in the war than the striking gates that have been erected at the entrance to the well-kept school grounds ... On the lawn, under an oak tree, just inside the gates, a temporary dais was set up, and round this gathered a large number of Takapuna residents, as well as all the children attending the school, who were marched on to the scene by the headmaster ... and his assistants ... One of the names was that of a past girl pupil. The first name on the list was that of Lieut. Sanders, VC, one of the greatest heroes of the war. (Applause) ...
 Auckland Star 11 May  1923

Actually, the reporter was wrong, and perhaps the speechmakers were wrong on the day if they, too, said that Sanders' name was first. It isn't. It tops the list on the front face of one pillar, the right one, but -- the names, with one exception, are listed alphabetically by the engraver. Sanders is simply first on the list of one of the four marble plaques.

So, who was Lieut.-Commander Sanders? Press clippings from Papers Past best relate his story.

Private advice has been received by Mr. E. H. C. Sanders, of Takapuna, says the New Zealand Herald, that his son Lieutenant-Commander William Edward Sanders, V.C, had been killed in the North Sea. No details of the casualty were given.

Lieutenant-Commander Sanders, who was the second Aucklander to be awarded a V.C. in the present war, was born 35 years ago. After passing through the Nelson Street School he commenced a sea career on the small steamer Kapanui, engaged in coastal trade from Auckland. Next he joined the Government steamer Hinemoa, passing from her to the Craig Line of sailing vessels. He was first mate of the Joseph Craig when she was wrecked on the Kaipara Bar, the entire crew having a narrow escape from death. Proceeding to Sydney he passed for extra master, and joined the Union Steam Ship Company. He served for about a year with the Union Line on the Willochra and the Tofua.

Mr. Sanders offered his services to the Admiralty on the outbreak of war, but was not called upon for service for 18 months. Proceeding to England, he was appointed to a warship as sub-lieutenant. Promotion to the rank of lieutenant-commander came quickly, and he was twice recommended for distinction while serving on a fast patrol vessel. On 15th February, 1917, he was given command of. a patrol boat, and at the end of June came the announcement of the award of the Victoria Cross, Lieutenant-Commander Sanders thus being the first New Zealander to gain, as a naval officer, the highest British decoration for gallantry and devotion to duty. Letters received show that the late officer had been engaged in a number of minor operations, for several of which he was recommended for decoration and for promotion. Writing on 10th May of this year, he said: "I can give you no names, but it will give you some idea when I tell you we were only 80 yards apart. We are badly holed, and our internal fittings are all smashed up, but the enemy is no more."

In the last letter received by his parents, Lieutenant-commander Sanders stated that he had had another strenuous time, having gone for five weeks without taking off his clothes.
Evening Post 21 August 1917

Lieut.-commander William Edward Sanders, from Scars of the Heart exhibition, Auckland War Memorial Museum
The following letter from His Majesty the King has been received by Mr E. H. C. Sanders, of Takapuna .-—"Buckingham Palace, September 13, 1917, It is a matter of sincere regret to me that the death of Lieutenant Commander William E. Sanders, V.C., D.S.O., R.N.R., deprived me of the pride of personally conferring upon him the Victoria Cross, the greatest of all rewards, for valour and devotion to duty' (Signed) George, R.I"

Colonist 1 December 1917

At a meeting convened by the Mayor of Auckland and held in the Town Hall, Auckland on May 3rd it was resolved "that in recognition of the services rendered the Empire in the present war by the late Lieut.- Commander Sanders, VC., DSO., this meeting resolves to establish a fund for the purpose of providing an appropriate memorial in honour of the memory of that gallant officer."

At a subsequent meeting it was resolved that the memorial take the form of-—
(a) a suitable statue or obelisk of approved, design, and
(b) A Sanders Memorial Scholarship, open to New Zealand boys desirous of entering the Merchant Service.

A committee was set up to further the objects, and his Worship the Mayor (Mr J C Adams) has now received from the committee a subscription for the purpose of assisting to raise funds for the objects mentioned.

Among the letters received by the late Lieutenant-Commander's father, Mr E H.C Sanders of Takapuna, Auckland, is the following from the Lords of the Admiralty—
"The Prize had fought gallant actions with the submarines on April 30th and June 12th 1917, .She was sunk on August 14th in the Atlantic on a dark and stormy night, and her gallant commander, Lieutenant-Commander W Sanders, who in five short months had been awarded the VC and the DSO in command of her, went down with her beneath the Atlantic wave, leaving his name to be inscribed imperishably on the same roll of Naval History where stands the names of Blake, Nelson and Riou."

Subscriptions may be left at the Times office where the list now lies or may be forwarded to the Mayor, Mr Adams.

Bay of Plenty Times 8 July 1918

"The Q-ship Prize in action against U-93 on 30 April 1917", painting by Arthur J Lloyd, from Scars of the Heart exhibition, Auckland War Memorial Museum
Account of the sinking of H.M.S. Prize, Lieut.-Commander W E. Sanders, R.N.R., by enemy submarine, on 14th August 1917, at 1.30 p.m.

"A man-of-war was in company with the Prize, a decoy sailing ship, on 13th August, when, at 3.60 p.m., the Prize hoisted the signal indicating 'enemy to port,' and hove to. Fire was opened on the Prize, and shots could be seen falling near her. Although the submarine with which she was engaged was not seen, the Prize had hoisted the White ensign. Her guns were seen manned, and she was ready to attack, but it was difficult for the ship in company to make out anything, as there was considerable mist. That night, however, at nine o'clock when the two ships had an opportunity to talk, the Prize gave her some details of the action.

“In the afternoon the submarine had been sighted in (latitude and longitude given) the Atlantic, northwest of Ireland, about two miles off, three points before port beam. She dived after firing a few shots and appeared again on the starboard side. The Prize opened fire at 200 yards and Lieut.-Commander Sanders thought he had got five shots home. The enemy submarine appeared to sink, or at any rate, disappeared. After this the communication ship in company drew off and took station astern of the prize. The night was dark and squally. The Prize was ahead, her outline being just visible. About 1.30 a.m. a heavy explosion was heard, and the Prize was seen to heel over to port and disappeared in a few seconds. Nothing could be seen of her with glasses or with the naked eye. A torpedo had struck her, and she must have sunk almost immediately. The accompanying ship passed close to the position where the Prize had disappeared and remained there for some time, bat nothing could be seen or heard in the dark and storm. As soon as day broke at 5.15 a.m., careful search of the position was made, but nothing further was seen.

“The Prize had fought gallant actions with submarines on 30th April and 13th June, 1917.”

Evening Post 18 December 1918

Auckland, Sept. 24. A striking tribute to the splendid valour and leadership of the late Lieutenant-Commander Sanders, VC, DSO, was paid to-day by Admiral Jellicoe, in unveiling a memorial to Sanders in the Takapuna School. Three Victoria Cross winners were present at the ceremony, namely, Lieutenants Bassett and Judson and Private J.Crichton. Admiral Jellicoe said that Sanders was promoted to his rank within twelve months of joining the service, and this, as far as he was aware, was almost a record. He detailed the last gallant fight made by the Prize when torpedoed out of range. That, said the Admiral, was the end of as gallant a craft and as gallant a captain and crew as ever sailed the seas.

Colonist 27 September 1919

Sanders' family and war record details also appear in detail on a Pembroke County Memorial website.

The very first name on the Takapuna memorial, though, and placed out of alphabetical order so it is definitely the first of the roll of names -- is that is that of nurse Elsie Mary Emily Cooke. The plaque, though, has a "C" instead of the "E" for Emily, but, never mind. Her name is part of what makes this memorial somewhat different from usual World War I memorials -- a woman's name, included, and she served during the war as a nurse.

Again, the news clippings convey her story -- but sadly, not enough. I don't know, at the moment, what happened when she returned to Australia in 1919.

N.Z. Nurses for the Australian Army Nursing Service

It will be remembered that as a result of the interview between a deputation from the N.Z. Trained Nurses' Association and the Hon. J. Allen, Minister of Defence, m January, a cable was sent to the Defence Minister of the Commonwealth, asking if some New Zealand nurses might be included m subsequent detachments of Australian nurses to the war. There did not at that time seem any likelihood of nurses being accepted from New Zealand for service by the War Office. The Commonwealth Government have very courteously remembered this request from our Government, and the call came very suddenly by a cable, on March 25th, m which, the Matron-in-Chief , Miss Maclean, was asked if twelve New Zealand nurses — two sisters and ten nurses could be ready to sail for Melbourne on March 31st. Telegrams were immediately despatched to each centre, for its quota towards this contingent, and although many of those on the Reserve and Volunteer List who were due for the next call, had to be telegraphed to from the centres, and were informed that it was possible that they might have to pay their own fares to Melbourne, and expenses preceding embarkation there, the necessary twelve were ready to sail on the appointed date, which was April Ist, from Wellington, by the " Ulimaroa," for Sydney direct.

Good positions were vacated at very short notice, by more than one of these nurses, and the despatch with which they arranged their private affairs and reported themselves as ready to sail would be difficult to surpass. …The nurses selected so hurriedly were : Misses Elizabeth White, Alice Fraser, Ethel Dement, Grace Guthrie, Helen Brown, Cora Turnbull, Jessie Verby, Hilda Steele, Elsie Cooke, Nora Fitzgibbon, Dorothy Rose, Emily Scott. The rate of pay for the Australian Army Nursing Service is less than m the New Zealand Service ; being 6s. a day for sisters, and 3s. 4d. a day for nurses, plus the usual 3s. 6d. a day field allowance for both when full board is not otherwise provided …

On arrival they were met by the Matron of the Sydney Hospital and accommodation was provided, for those who had not friends to go to. Uniforms and other necessaries had to be seen to immediately and a busy time of shopping took up several days, the firm responsible for the making of the uniforms (David Jones and Co.), presenting each nurse with a black silk umbrella. At the Sydney Hospital the Matron gave each member of the band a parcel of necessaries from the Red Cross Society. Orders had been received that they were to embark on April 13th for Melbourne where the remainder of the contingent was to be picked up. The writer states that nothing could exceed the kindness of the Australian nurses, who have shown not a trace of jealousy or resentment at New Zealand being thus represented m the Commonwealth contingent — a spirit which speaks well for the women who are banded together in the same splendid common cause.

Kai Tiaki : the journal of the nurses of New Zealand, April 1915

Sister Elsie Cook, who was one of the twelve New Zealand nurses who joined the Australian Forces writes from No. 4 Australian General Hospital, Randwick, Sydney. She and Sister Scott volunteered for transport duty, but hoped to get back again to their unit. They are keenly disappointed now that the others have gone to France. Later news says they have had orders to report for Transport duty.

Kai Tiaki : the journal of the nurses of New Zealand, July 1916

Sister Elsie Cooke, attached to the Australian nurses, writes from H.M.H.S. Lawrence in the Mediterranean. She and Sister Scott left Sydney in August, and were nine weeks in England. They expected later to be sent to France. Some of the Australian sisters had been to Brockenhurst to relieve them before our own sisters arrived from Egypt. They said they never worked so hard in their lives, but they thoroughly enjoyed it, and could not say enough for the way the New Zealand orderlies worked. Another thing that pleased them was the supply of comforts for the men.

Kai Tiaki : the journal of the nurses of New Zealand, April 1917

According to the Cenotaph database, Sister Elsie Cooke was awarded ARRC (Associate of the Royal Red Cross) for her wartime work.

Another thing about this memorial -- out of the 108 names displayed, only !6 died while on active service during the war, so this is more a memorial to the war's survivors than it is to those who didn't make it back alive.


  1. Lovely post Lisa :)Always good putting inaccuracies right also!

    I actually photographed William Sanders family plot and memorial to him. It is in Purewa cemetery.

    Also the Nurses Chapel in Christchurch beside the public hospital is the only purpose-built hospital chapel in the world which commemorates nurses who died in the Great War. I got some lovely snaps of it on 22 February 2 days after the quake, from the room my daughter was in the process of being induced in LOL!


  2. Sanders is well memorialised, then. But I hadn't heard of him until I saw the display at the museum.

    And yayness indeed, that the nurses' memorial chapel got by in the earthquake! Excellent news.

  3. What a fabulous find - the memorial and the people behind the names, plus the nurses chapel.
    Enjoyed reading your work, Lisa, will have a stickybeak to see if I can find anything on your Sister Elsie Cooke ;)

  4. Cheers, Jayne. Yes, if you do find out a bit more, give us a yell.

  5. And as I was replying, Jayne emails me. She's found that Elsie married W H Timperley at Armadale, Victoria. So that answers my suspicion that she stayed over on the other side of the Ditch. Thanks, Jayne!