Lieutenant-general Rhys Jones unveils a plaque on the grave of Charles Risk, a World War 1 soldier, in the Nevis cemetery. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
In an isolated patch of Central Otago yesterday, in a
cemetery containing mostly unmarked graves, an ''ordinary''
New Zealand soldier was recognised in extraordinary
Charles Risk, a trooper in the Otago Mounted Rifles during
World War 1, did not receive any medals for great acts of
valour and served only a short time before contracting
typhoid fever, then tuberculosis, and returning to New
Zealand where he died, aged in his early 30s, in the Nevis
Valley, from pneumonia.
Yesterday about 40 people took the long, steep, winding
gravel road to the Nevis cemetery for the unveiling, by
Lieutenant-general Rhys Jones, chief of the New Zealand
Defence Force, of a plaque commemorating Trooper Risk's life.
Lt-gen Jones described him as an ''ordinary'' soldier - ''but
that's what New Zealand soldiers are about, everyday people
who don't consider themselves special''.
The plaque was instigated by a small group of local men,
including Derek Whelan, of Cromwell, who noticed Trooper
Risk's grave had fallen into disrepair.
Over the years he had kept the grave tidy and always made
sure he had a ''poppy on Anzac Day''.
Mr Whelan approached several different organisations,
including the Historic Cemeteries Conservation Trust, about
restoring the gravesite.
Now, it is framed in concrete and bears the plaque, funded by
the Central Lakes and Otago Community trusts, detailing what
little is known of Trooper Risk's life.''
It's a wonderful thing that you are doing to recognise an
individual of no great merit,'' Lt-gen Jones said.
John Neilson, another of the men instrumental in the project,
said because he was ''just a trooper'' in World War 1, not
much was recorded of Mr Risk.
He was born in Kelso, West Otago, in 1890. When war was
declared in 1914, he was working as a labourer in Tapanui. He
joined the army and travelled to Egypt and the Dardanelles.
He fought at Gallipoli before falling ill. He returned to New
Zealand and was discharged from the army in 1917.
Mr Neilson said it was not known why Trooper Risk came to be
in the Nevis.''
But probably it was not for work but for the rarefied air for
Fewer than 10 men of the Otago Mounted Rifles regiment
survive but some of them made the long trip to the Nevis
yesterday, including George Johnstone (91), of Mosgiel.
He said it was ''just beaut'' to be able to attend.
Lt-gen Jones awarded Mr Neilson a New Zealand Defence Service
Earlier that day he awarded six men from the 2/4 Royal New
Zealand Infantry Regiment the same medal.
They were: Corporal Nick Booth, of Hawea, Corporal Darian
Perett, of Cromwell, Second Lieutenant Aaron Halstead, of
Queenstown, Major Ian Piercy, Wanaka, Second Lieutenant Tyne
Schofield, of Queenstown, and Lance-corporal Paul Cartlidge,