Rifleman Samuel Frickleton was one of only 11 New Zealand soldiers awarded the VC during the Great War when he attacked two machine gun posts at the Battle of Messines. An action that no doubt saved lives and earned him the Victoria Cross.
The 26-year-old visited Brocton camp on Cannock Chase in Staffordshire during the Great War where hundreds of soldiers from the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (NZRB) were based.
Over half a million men from across the UK and abroad spent time at the camps learning the skills required on the Western Front. It was also on Cannock Chase that men from the NZRB built an intricate scale model of the village at Messines which was used to train troops and was excavated and recorded by archaeologists in 2013.
Now, exactly 100 years since the brigade left Cannock Chase, a new Ngā Tapuwae memorial at the Marquis Drive Visitors Centre will pay tribute to those brave New Zealanders who came to Brocton.
Ngā Tapuwae means ‘In the footsteps’ in the Maori language and the Staffordshire memorial now joins others in Gallipoli, Belgium and France.
Sir Jerry Mateparae, New Zealand High Commissioner to the UK said:
“I’m thrilled to be able to gift this heritage sign to help keep alive the memory of the New Zealand forces that were here 100 years ago.
“It was an honour to be part of the ceremony in a place where our men had honed the skills they’d need on the Western Front. It was humbling to learn that their stories and their sacrifices are remembered so long after they were there, and is testament to the strong and enduring New Zealand – United Kingdom bond.”
Gill Heath, Cabinet Member for Communities at Staffordshire County Council said:
“Cannock Chase and the New Zealand Rifle Brigade played an incredibly important role training troops during the Great War and it’s vital we recognise and remember their contributions.
“Having the Ngā Tapuwae memorial is a wonderful way to commemorate the centenary of the New Zealanders based here and the special connection with the local community that remains so strong today.”
The memorial was commissioned by the New Zealand Government and supported by Staffordshire County Council and the Chase Project.
Joining the unveiling of the memorial is Mark Frickleton, grandson of Samuel Frickleton VC and his wife Jen.
Lee Dent and Richard Pursehouse from the Chase Project military research group have also been involved with the project from its inception and said
“We are extremely proud to have played a small part in ensuring the connection between Staffordshire and New Zealand continues. The unveiling of this information panel is the culmination of a lot of hard work from all involved.”