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A region united at special services

Wildly blustery weather meant the cancellation of the expected flyover of vintage aircraft at Tīnui’s Anzac service yesterday, but the service itself rolled out like clockwork.

Several hundred intrepid folk from far and wide attended the service, which began with a march of soldiers from the Queen Alexandra’s Mounted Rifles, the oldest unit in the New Zealand Army. Piped up Church St to the Tīnui War Memorial by bagpiper Zavier Boyles, the soldiers were accompanied by a team of smartly turned out Whakaoriori Air Scouts. Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell and councillor David Holmes were also in attendance.

Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO, KStJ, the former chief of both New Zealand’s Army and its Defence Force, as well as a past governor general, acknowledged the crowds of people attending the service in his address.

“We are here to remember the men and women who have served the nation in times of war and conflict,” he said.

“And especially those who paid the ultimate price and gave their lives. We are not here to glorify their deeds but
to remember their example.”

The Anzac legend began on April 25, 1915, when 20,000 soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed under fire on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.

Until that year, there were 1000 single men in the Tīnui district, most of whom volunteered in World War I. The names of 37 WWI Tīnui boys are engraved on the War Memorial, and each was read out by local school children during the service.

Sir Jerry pointed out that the sacrifice of those young Tīnui men has since been repeated in WWII, and wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, as well as other conflicts.

Tīnui was the first place in the world to have a formal celebration of Anzac Day. In 1916, Rev Basil Ashcroft held an Anzac ceremony at Tīnui‘s Church of the Good Shepherd and erected a cross on top of Mount Maunsel overlooking the village.

Soon after that, he entered the army to become a chaplain at the Western Front. He could not, in all conscience, send any more boys to the war if he was not there himself.

Rev Ashcrofts’ granddaughter Sue Forde and great-granddaughter Bridget were at yesterday’s Tīnui service.

“I have a strong feeling about this area,” Forde said. “This is where my family came from.” Her mother was one of Basil’s five daughters, while her grandmother was a principal at St Matthews in Masterton.

Over an outstanding morning tea [organised by the Tīnui Women’s Institute], the Times-Age met Vanessa and her young son Jackson, present at the service to honour Vanessa’s grandfather, Vic Gadsby. His stripe of five medals included three from Vietnam, where he served as an engineer from 1964 to 1966.

“I was one of the first 25 engineers to go out there from New Zealand,” Gadsby remembered.

In his address, Rev Steve Thomson recognised the debt we owe to servicemen and women who are prepared to fight, die, or live on with mental and physical scars, to preserve the ideals of freedom and democracy.

Sir Mataparae ended his address with a Māori whakatoki: “I look back as I go into the future.”

The past, present and the future intertwine. War and sacrifice remain.


  1. There are some errors of fact in this story.

    Tinui was not unique in holding the first Anzac service. This is a myth perpetuated by the news media over the last 30 years.

    All Anglican churches across New Zealand were required to hold an “Early Communion” on 25 April 1916 to mark St Mark’s Day, which is also on 25 April. The Vicar of Tinui, the Rev. Basil Ashcroft, held a communion service with 11 communicants (people who received communion) at 7.30 am in the Church of the Good Shepherd.

    Later in the morning Tinui schoolchildren and Boy Scouts assembled on the road outside Tinui Hall. The school was presented with a Union Jack, Bugler Hancock sounded the salute and they sang the National Anthem. After morning tea at Tinui Station a wooden memorial cross was carried in a disassembled state to the top of Tinui Taipo, where it was put together.

    At 3 pm Tinui Vicar the Rev. Basil Ashcroft held a community Anzac Memorial Service in Tinui Hall “during which the names of those who had fallen from this district” were read.

    Tinui’s uniqueness in the Anzac story is that the memorial cross erected on Anzac Day in 1916 appears to be the first such memorial cross in New Zealand.

    A full account of the day was published in the Wairarapa Daily Times, 28 April 1916. https://bit.ly/3UgQ4TX

    Caryl Forrest
    Editor, Tinui Times

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