Statue project not supported by RSA

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by Chris Tobin

A Waimate District Council project to commission and erect a statue of local World War 2 soldier Ted d’Auvergne outside the Waihao Forks Hotel is not being supported by the Waimate RSA.

Club secretary-treasurer Lynn Boswell said it was not RSA national policy to support the building of statues of individual soldiers.

“We’re here to commemorate all who gave their lives,” she said.

“We wish them every bit of luck but as far as the RSA is concerned, we can’t afford to fundraise for them.

“We support our members with hearing aids and mobility scooters, not building statues.”

Last Friday, Waimate Mayor Craig Rowley hosted a project launch at the Waihao Forks Hotel to raise $50,000 to create a statue of Private d’Auvergne, who famously left an unopened bottle of beer at the hotel to drink on his return from the war.

Pte d’Auvergne died in the Battle of Crete in 1941 and his unopened bottle of beer has remained at the hotel ever since.

“Ted’s bottle is a memorial for Ted – we don’t want to detract from that,” Mrs Boswell said.

“We have widows of RSA guys. They say it [the statue] is ridiculous and are asking ‘how come he gets the glory? We don’t have a statue of Eric Batchelor’.”

Sergeant Batchelor, DCM and Bar, Waimate’s most decorated soldier, is commemorated by a painting on one of the Waimate grain silos.

Mrs Boswell said a concern for the Waimate RSA was that it had approached the council and other groups seeking help to repair and maintain 14 war memorials around the district in time for the World War1 centenary commemorations.

“We didn’t get any joy with any of them. We did have one group who said they’d help but they never followed through.”

Mr Rowley was unavailable for comment.

However, at the project launch Waimate RSA member Doug Morris also voiced the RSA’s views on the planned statue.

Later, Mr Rowley said the statue would enhance the status of the bottle in the Waihao Forks Hotel and not detract from it.

Mrs Boswell said Pte d’Auvergne’s bottle held a place in the heart of the local community and his story was known nationwide.

“We remember him every year with a service and our policy is in no way any disrespect for him,” she said.

“We wish the Waihao Downs community well in their venture and we will continue to commemorate the memory of Ted and his bottle and every other soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom every Anzac Day.”