Even the rain and chill of the day did not mar the celebration of the opening 100 years ago of No.1 New Zealand General Hospital on the Tile Barn site. The centrepiece was the unveiling in St Nicholas Church of the stained glass memorial window jointly by the New Zealand High Commissioner Sir Lockwood Smith and the NZ Government Minister for Social Development The Hon Anne Tolley. Designed and made by Salisbury Glass it is a gift to our Parish Church from the New Zealand Government and UK-based Community.

After this short service we moved down to the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery for a Service which featured singing of Au E Ihu (The Soldier’s Hymn) and the reading of the poem “Far Away Yonder” by a Maori group and our primary school children singing “Shine Jesus Shine” before laying posies on all the graves. The Hon Anne Tolley then read excerpts from the diary of Captain Charlie May who was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme which was further remembered with the playing of the Last Post, one minute silence and Reveille. The Exhortation was delivered in English by ACF Cadet Ally Hood and in Maori by Major-General Peter Kelly – CGS NZ Army.

We took our visitors along to the Tile Barn Centre next to view the original site of the Hospital and to see the new Poppy Pod Village recently erected as Hampshire County Council’s thank you to the Armed Services. Free respite breaks are being offered to Services families – a welcome return of rehabilitation to Tile Barn a century after it was totally dedicated to that end!

The New Zealanders then hosted a Lunch Party in the Balmer Lawn Hotel before their key members headed across the Channel for the start of the Battle of the Somme commemorations.

Locally our day was rounded off in St Saviours with wine and small eats and a showing of the film “For King & Country” featuring silent newsreels of New Zealanders before and during WW1 presented with a specially prepared musical accompaniment and a stylish narration. It was a fitting way to conclude a really memorable day for our village community.

Mike Matthews