Memorial progress brings hope

A working design for a proposed memorial stone to Lawrence’s Chinese Anzacs. PHOTO: DUNEDIN...
A working design for a proposed memorial stone to Lawrence’s Chinese Anzacs. PHOTO: DUNEDIN MONUMENTAL MASONS/SUPPLIED
A descendant of Lawrence’s Chinese gold-mining community is hopeful her plan for a Chinese Anzac memorial may start in time for this year’s Anzac Day commemorations.

Adrienne Shaw, of Christchurch, said research had revealed more than a dozen men from Chinese families with links to Lawrence — including some of her forebears — had served in the two world wars.

Adrienne Shaw. Photo: ODT files
Adrienne Shaw. Photo: ODT files
Ms Shaw said although they were commemorated individually in regional Anzac memorials, she wished to mark them collectively with a new cairn stone in the Chinese section of the Lawrence Cemetery.

As her research had revealed other names with links to Dunedin, she was also considering launching a parallel project in the city to commemorate those men.

"I think it’s important to recognise the contribution these boys made to protecting New Zealand in the two world wars as, only a generation before, their parents were facing segregation and punitive measures like the Poll Tax, in an effort to deter further Chinese immigration.

"Yet they still saw themselves as New Zealanders, and stepped up and contributed like so many others.

"There’s a lot of history behind this project."

She said her great-great-uncle, James Robert Tye, travelled to Belgium at the beginning of World War 1, aged 28, before being killed in action at the Battle of Messines in 1917.

"It was great excitement, I think, to head off and fight for your country.

"Unfortunately, he never came back."

Ms Shaw said she proposed a cairn-type memorial stone costing about $5500, of which about $2000 was already raised.

"We definitely want to have it in place for the reunion of descendants of the Chinese Camp over Labour Weekend, but now we have initial seed funding, we’re hopeful others may wish to contribute and we could have it in place by Anzac Day."

A similar memorial for the Dunedin Chinese community’s Anzacs was also a possibility, she said.

"As well as the young men who descended from Lawrence there were also a few from Dunedin, such as Henry Sew Hoy.

"Maybe the Dunedin community could get behind a memorial for their Anzacs."

New Zealand Chinese Association Otago and Southland branch vice-president Teresa Chan said she did not believe Dunedin’s Chinese community had any plans for a memorial.

"It’s not something the association has thought about previously.

"We’ve certainly been involved in and contributed to various memorial projects around New Zealand, but not specifically Anzac-related, I believe."

She said she was aware of several Chinese Anzac descendants living in Dunedin, and the association would consider any proposal put forward by Ms Shaw or others.

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