Claire Bleakley and Joseph Bolton (back left), with Featherston School pupils proudly holding up the new town signage, featuring Anzac poppies. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

 

HAYLEY GASTMEIER

hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz

 

Featherston school pupils are embracing an opportunity to mark the town’s rich military history.

Fifteen street names and locations of military significance will be unveiled as ‘Poppy Places’ at 10am on April 20, Poppy Day.

Students from St Teresa’s School and Featherston School are working hard, researching and writing the stories behind 10 of these place and street names.

Other local residents with particular connections to the remaining five places are writing those stories.

Featherston is joining 85 other areas nationwide that have taken part in the Poppy Places Trust remembrance project, recognising street names and places that are directly linked to people or events in overseas conflicts.

St Teresa’s School teacher Carrie Watson said the unique project fitted in perfectly with the term’s enquiry topic — turangawaewae, “the place where I stand and feel empowered”.

So far, her pupils had visited the places they were writing about – Anzac Hall, Featherston Soldiers Cemetery, Birdwood St, Churchill St, and Camp Rd.

Utilising resources such as Wairarapa Archive and Featherston Heritage Museum, the pupils will this week collate their findings and begin using the information to produce stories.

Mrs Watson said the students needed to uncover the “nitty gritty” details of the place names, including who or what inspired the name, and the reasons why it was chosen.

Featherston School teacher Kimberley Hewison said the pupils’ enthusiasm had gone up a notch after being visited by Joseph Bolton, project manager and Poppy Places Trust trustee.

“He really stressed that it’s something special to be part of and it’s going to be forever, as the stories will be online.

“The kids are really excited to be doing something that will have a lasting presence.”

The stories written by the pupils will be available through a ‘quick response’ phone code displayed on each sign, as appearing on the South Wairarapa District Council (SWDC) and Poppy Places websites.

They will also be on display at Featherston Booktown, from May 11 to 13.

Featherston Community Board (FCB) member Claire Bleakley approached the schools and got the children involved.

She said it was heartening to see how the pupils had embraced the project, which she was co-ordinating for the town.

“We are really excited that the children have become so involved.”

Mrs Bleakley said the new signs, which display the official poppy flower of the RSA, would commemorate those who gave their lives for peace and freedom.

Featherston Memorial RSA secretary Joanne Bateman said the town was a key area in New Zealand’s military history.

“Our past is intrinsically linked with the events that have shaped who we are today.

“From the First World War training camp and the terrible flu epidemic of 2018, to the Japanese POW camp of the Second World War and the twinning of our town with Messines in Belgium.

“This project will help everyone to better understand and appreciate what has shaped our area.”

The new signs, funded by FCB and SWDC, will enable visitors to track the history of the area along a national poppy trail.

St Teresa's School pupils are writing the history behind Featherston's new Poppy Places, which are being unveiled on April 20. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

St Teresa’s School pupils are writing the history behind Featherston’s new Poppy Places, which are being unveiled on April 20. PHOTO/SUPPLIED