A memorial that honours one of the handful of New Zealand horses who returned from overseas wartime service may soon have permanent protection.
The Memorial to Bess, located on private land owned by AgResearch, near Bulls, is one of very few worldwide to commemorate the war service of horses.
The New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) is working with AgResearch to protect and conserve the memorial and its immediate surrounds through a heritage covenant and conservation management plan to ensure it remains much as it was when erected following Bess’ death and her burial on the site in 1934.
The Memorial also serves as a reminder of the horse’s owner, Colonel Charles Guy Powles, who served with distinction and became an equally important figure on his return.
Colonel Powles and Bess were active in Egypt in 1915, Sinai in 1916, Palestine in 1917-18, France in 1918, Germany in 1919 and England in 1920 with the Wellington Mounted Rifles.
Colonel Powles went on to become chief of staff of the New Zealand Army in 1923 and a headmaster at Flock House, established to assist the dependents of war veterans.
Trust heritage adviser Natasha Naus said the memorial was a personal tribute from Colonel Powles to his horse.
It had, over time, become a memorial to all horses that served in the war.
“The New Zealand Expeditionary Force comprised three squadrons of 7766 men and 3753 horses, so for Bess to return home, and with the same owner, was truly remarkable.
“The Historic Places Trust is delighted to be discussing with AgResearch the value of a heritage covenant and conservation management plan that will inform and guide future works on the site.”
Heritage covenants are registered on a property title and require all subsequent owners to consult with the trust if there are any changes to the site considered.
“The covenant will ensure all New Zealanders continue to have access to the site while being mindful and respectful of its location on a working farm and being private property,” Ms Naus said.
Marcus Wilson wrote a thesis on the role of the New Zealand military horse during the Anglo-Boer War and World War 1.
An account of his research can be found here.