Helmet for a Pillow

Image

The soldier, above all others, prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

– Douglas MacArthur, 1962

Every once in a while there are certain individuals who cross our path and provide insight into areas of life that we would not normally venture. Anyone younger than 65 has more than likely never seen the direct effects of, or fought in a war. While our families can recall grandparents and great-grandparents that fought in either of the world wars, conflict in our recent history has been confined for the most part to our television screens. That is why it is important to keep the memories of those who served alive and undistorted; so that we may never forget that war really is hell.

Bernard 1Bernard Madden, photograph courtesy of Barbara Madden.

One of our latest donations, a large collection of letters between a serviceman and his family during the Second World War, has shone unique views onto military service and the home front in this tumultuous time. In April 1941, Bernard Madden, a 26 year-old driver for Amalgamated Couriers of Napier, left his parents and enlisted in the New Zealand armed forces. After undertaking three months basic training at Trentham, Bernard was quickly sent off to the Middle East as a gunner in the 7th Anti-Tank Regiment, 2 New Zealand Expeditionary Force where he served as a gunner and later a driver.

While overseas Bernard sent many letters to his parents in Napier.  They were read and then passed on to his extended family who lived throughout the Hawke’s Bay region as mail restrictions disallowed excessive postage. It becomes apparent reading through these letters that the first priority for Bernard was of the need to reassure the family at every possible opportunity that he was doing well. Surface-sent letters, which were bulkier and took longer to travel, were sent every week, but he did not hesitate to send faster-arriving, smaller airgraphs (at considerable personal expense) in between these weekly letters to reassure the family.

2013.65.10a (1) Letter from Bernard Madden, 20 September 1941, gifted by Barbara Madden, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/65/10

Bernard appears deeply involved with both his close and extended family. He at times questions if his father’s health is holding up and asks his mother, Louisa, if she is surviving the rationing period, frequently offering to send items home. When his brother Patrick was listed as missing in action as Axis forces advanced on Egypt in 1942, Bernard took it upon himself to question every soldier from Patrick’s unit about his brother’s fate. After Bernard learnt that he was taken prisoner, first to Italy and then to Germany, he made sure the family was kept up-to-date on his location and on the best way to send him his favourite tobacco. Sister Noeline and Cousin Lola were frequently reprimanded for ‘flirting’ with American soldiers based in New Zealand, while his young niece Moira appeared to be his favourite as he constantly asked about her schooling and after-school activities. The agony of being away from those he cared about shows through in Bernard’s writing, particularly as children in the family, some which he had never met,  grew up in the years he was away.

While Bernard did not see much front line action, he did see his fair share of hospital wards. The infection of a scratch on the leg early in the war was the start of a long list of maladies including influenza, intestinal problems and a significant hernia which, due to lifting heavy objects constantly, kept him in hospital and off the front lines for significant amounts of time. This had the unintended effect of allowing for long periods of recuperation time which, since permanent hospitals and respite camps were well behind the front lines, meant Bernard took the time to travel throughout the Middle East and Italy. Bernard’s letters tell of the large orchards scattered throughout Palestine, visiting Jewish communities and learning about their culture, visiting seaside resorts and tours of the countryside with other servicemen. Bernard was also in the right place at the right time during his Italian tour of duty; he writes of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in March 1944 and of arriving back at base minutes before a grand tour of Rome left for the capital.

By the time he had finished his service, Bernard Madden had served with 2 NZEF throughout its major operations in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Italy. In addition, he had managed to see the sites of Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Bernard left the armed forces after returning to Napier in August 1945 with six campaign medals, later settling in the suburb of Otahuhu, Auckland. His medical conditions, however, lingered, as the effects of war always do, and he was in and out of hospital until late the next year when he was officially discharged from the armed forces. Bernard passed away in Auckland aged 54 years and is survived by his wife Betty, seven children, 12 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren. He is interred in the soldiers’ section of the Manukau Memorial Gardens.

All 150 of Bernard’s letters are now available on the MTG Hawke’s Bay online collection.

Evan Greensides
Archivist
April 2014

Advertisements

Walking among the headstones

Image

Napier Hill Cemetery 5

During January, February and March, 2014 MTG Hawke’s Bay will again host three guided tours in the Napier Cemetery. These highly successful tours were launched in November 2008 in association with the exhibition Somebody’s Darling, Stories from the Napier Cemetery, curated by Peter Wells and Gail Pope and have run every summer since.

Row upon row of hand crafted headstones contrast vividly against the startling blue of the sky, shadows cast by the varying hues and patterns of the trees and leaves produce constant movement and dance over headstones and the air is punctuated with birdsong. Spectacular views looking out towards Cape Kidnappers and Te Mata Peak can be glimpsed between trees contorted by age and weather. The beautifully crafted headstones identify well-known local and national identities as well as the ‘everyday’ men, women and children who also have extraordinary stories associated with their lives, and their deaths.

In conjunction with the exhibition a group of keen volunteer gardeners, Jenny Horne, Jenny Baker, Heather Carter, Sue Langford, Peter Wells and Gail Pope formed the Greening the Graveyard Group. Their aim, with the support of the Napier City Council, was and is, to turn a stark grey environment into one of colour, fragrance and life.

Napier Cemetery 4

The income received from the cemetery tours each year has been used to support the museum redevelopment project and for the Greening the Graveyard Group to purchase plants to enhance the beauty of the cemetery. For the last three years the Greening the Graveyard Group have also used the funds to purchase new works for the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection.

Napier Cemetery 2

Napier Cemetery 1

The first item purchased by the Greening the Graveyard Group was A Study of Two Figures by George Wood (1898-1963). Wood was a New Zealand draughtsman, illustrator and artist. He is best known for his graphic stylized images which capture form and light through simple line with the use of unbroken colour.

His work reflects the concerns and style of the Art Deco movement, which fed into the modernist Avant-garde and also shows the influence of Māori culture and the Pacific Islands. Such works as this are extremely rare and particularly resonant within the context of the Hawke’s Bay Museum’s Trust collection.

George Wood (1898-1963) A Study of Two Figures Printed in ink on paper Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2012/29

George Wood (1898-1963), A Study of Two Figures
Printed in ink on paper
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2012/29

The second piece purchased by the group was a repoussé tray made by Cedric Storey. Storey was an artist, panelbeater, sculptor and jeweller. He designed the Auckland City Council official coat of arms and created the much-loved dragon at the Auckland Zoo in the late 1950s. This tray is rare example of a New Zealand made piece of Arts & Crafts metalwork, rectangular in design with raised decoration at either end in the form of grapes and vine leaves.

Cedric Storey Repoussé tray Brasswashed copper Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/25

Cedric Storey, Repoussé tray, Brasswashed copper
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/25

Cedric Storey Repoussé tray Brasswashed copper Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/25

Cedric Storey, Repoussé tray, Brasswashed copper
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/25

This top, a sample garment from the Laurie Foon label, a designer and founder member of the Starfish clothing range was purchased for the collection in 2013. One of the many attributes of Starfish clothing was the understated detailing and relaxed lines that allowed the wearer to integrate the garment into their own unique style. The label was also known for a commitment and focus on environmental sustainability.

Laurie Foon Sample garment Silk and cotton Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/34

Laurie Foon, Sample garment, Silk and cotton
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/34

The most recent purchase, in late 2013 was the painting titled, In the Bath by New Zealand artist Murray Grimsdale. Grimsdale’s recurring concerns as an artist are the events and the people which surround him. His works are often domestic in scale and familial in subject.

Murray Grimsdale In the Bath Pastel on paper Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/49

Murray Grimsdale, In the Bath, Pastel on paper
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/49

The money raised over the summer 2014 tours will continue to be used to develop the collection and we look forward to sharing new acquisitions purchased by the Greening the Graveyard group over the coming year.

The guided walks are being held on the following dates at 2.00 pm:
Sunday January 26th
Sunday February 16th
Sunday March 23rd

Cost: $12 per adult, children free
Payment to be taken on the day.

Please wear sturdy footwear, a sunhat and take a bottle of water.
The tour meeting point is at the gates of the Cemetery, situated on Napier Terrace, next to the Botanical Gardens.

Tours do book out, so please book early to secure a place by calling MTG Hawke’s Bay, 06 833 9795 or email events@mtghawkesbay.com

Gail Pope
Curator of Archives
January 2014

The photographs of the cemetery used in this post were taken by David Frost, Graphic Designer & Photographer, MTG Hawke’s Bay