The figure of Zealandia appeared on two South African War memorials – at Palmerston in Otago, and here in Waimate, South Canterbury. Zealandia was conceived of as the daughter of Britannia, and was a symbol of New Zealand. Her presence on two South African War monuments emphasises that they were expressions of pride in the nation's service to the empire, more than surrogate tombs to honour the dead.
In Waimate the memorial was positioned in a small park, in front of a coronation oak, opposite Queen Street and at right angles to Victoria Terrace – so it was within a network of imperial references. Its inscription stated that it was '[i]n commemoration of the South African War in which New Zealand represented by her 6500 volunteers for the first time took part in the battles of the Empire and assisted to maintain the prestige of the British flag.' Only at the bottom do we learn that the memorial also commemorated the death of a local boy, trooper Alfred Whitney, 'in the memorable night attack at Bothasberg'.
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Photograph by Jock Phillips
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