Tour of duty to tidy up Anzac Drive war memorial

They soldiered on near Anzac Drive’s equivalent of the trenches – teenagers respecting the legacy of Sergeant Jack Hinton VC, a name which now resonates with these students of history.

Shirley Boys’ High School’s year 9 students spent Tuesday cleaning up the memorial dedicated to Hinton, who made Bexley home after returning from World War 2 with a Victoria Cross, Great Britain’s highest and most prestigious award for valour.

The campaign was masterminded by SBHS deputy principal and social studies teacher Rob Wilson-Pyne, and inspired by the memorial’s neglect being publicised in January.

Shirley Boys’ High School pupils weeding and cleaning the Jack Hinton war memorial. Photo: Geoff...
Shirley Boys’ High School pupils weeding and cleaning the Jack Hinton war memorial. Photo: Geoff Sloan :
Although the city council moved quickly to tidy the site between Anzac Drive and Bexley Rd after its sorry state was revealed by the New Zealand Remembrance Army, a charity which restores war graves, Wilson-Pyne realised it still required attention.

Jack Hinton.
Jack Hinton.
So 19 boys – there was one deserter on sick leave – toiled either side of a timely lunch break at the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association branch in New Brighton.

“There’s a picture of Jack on the wall,” said SBHS principal Tim Grocott.

“They were going ‘There he is there’. That was a really nice connection.”

The 13-year-olds had already learned of Hinton’s exploits at Kalamata, Crete, during the New Zealanders’ evacuation from the Greek island in 1941.

After nightfall on April 28, Hinton, tired of retreating, instigated an attack on a German position by yelling: “To hell with this, who’ll come with me?”

Hinton then surged towards enemy lines, tossing two grenades to wipe out a German gun emplacement single-handed. He was later shot in the stomach, captured and held prisoner until the conflict ended in 1945.

Grocott said Hinton’s bold and selfless actions provided important context to the battle the students and their families wage on a daily basis.

“For some of our young men today, to understand the sacrifice and to understand what people did, whether it’s the first or second World War, it gives us some idea of how easy and pleasant their lives are,” he said.

“Even though we’ve got plenty of families who are struggling financially and socio-economically, all of those challenges, but they’re not seeing their father or their older brother head off the war.”

The memorial before it was tidied by the city council. Photo: Supplied
The memorial before it was tidied by the city council. Photo: Supplied
While class 9H received a special insight in New Zealand’s war history, Grocott said the remainder of the roll will be reminded of its relevance and the importance of Anzac Day at the final assembly before the term ends tomorrow.

Grocott said the clearance operation would not be a one-off, suggesting senior students might be seconded in future.

“We have an expectation that our year 13 students do service, community service, so maybe in the future we’ll use them to do the work.

“It’s something we’d like to invest a bit of time in. We’d like to maintain a connection with it.”

Born in Southland, Hinton died in 1997, aged 87. He is buried at Bromley’s Ruru Lawn Cemetery. His memorial was officially opened in 2005, with his relatives and Greek embassy staff at the forefront.