Despite the rain, the early morning peace of the Pohangina Village was shaken by the staccato rumble of multiple rally car engines as the last round of the National Rally Series took place on Saturday the 3rd of October. Various car rallies have been held in the Pohangina Valley over the years, but this was the first one staged out of the village itself for some time. Seventy one teams were entered and with the first scheduled out of the village at 7 a.m. all available space was rapidly taken up by 6.30 a.m. by teams setting up their working areas. Luckily the previous few days had been fine and most of the grass verge areas weren’t too wet with teams finding enough space to poke in wherever they could fit. From 7 o’clock on cars rumbled out of the village at one minute intervals to travel to the first stage starting at Mt Richards and ending at Apiti, followed by a second stage from Apiti back to Kuku Road in the Pohangina Village. The rain ceased around this time and after a 20 minute pit stop to refuel and effect repairs as required (and there were a few of those), it was off around the two stages again. By 1 p.m. all was quiet and deserted as all teams were off to repeat the process in the afternoon between Mauriceville and Masterton. So for six hectic hours we experienced the controlled mayhem of the rally fraternity, quite an interesting occasion for the uninitiated like myself. The wet weather didn’t seem to bother anyone but possibly kept away a few spectators.

County Fayre had been approached several weeks previously to host the rally and help out with providing some food and hospitality as a community event. With the teams and fans, 2-300 people were expected and would be looking for some refreshment and food during their stay. Obviously far too much for County Fayre to handle, we enlisted the help of the Ashhurst-Pohangina Lions Club to provide their renowned burgers and sausages as the main fare on offer, while the Pohangina Hall Committee served up numerous teas, coffees and savouries. County Fayre ran its usual operation. A good occasion to showcase the village was possibly dampened by the rain over the first round but was nevertheless a worthwhile event to host.

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Following in the tradition of the last 100 years Pohangina commemorated the events that unfolded on the beaches of Gallipoli that established the ANZAC entity, with a service of commemoration at 10 a.m. in the Pohangina Cemetery.

In contrast to some of the weather being experienced by our ANZAC colleagues across the Tasman Sea, Saturday morning dawned bright and clear, perhaps heralding a new perspective on those sombre events of yesteryear as we move into the 2nd century. With all the publicity and preparations for the many aspects of commemorations of World War One, it was perhaps no surprise that by 9.30 a.m. there was a steady flow of cars and people on foot up Finnis Road. A good turnout of the local community was expected but the numbers treading the gravel of Kuku Road through the backlit avenue of trees towards the Pohangina Cemetery exceeded expectations. Admittedly, numbers were augmented by many coming from Ashhurst as well, some on their third service of the day. The 100 orders of service were quickly exhausted by the estimated 200-300 attending plus a large contingent of Army personnel from Linton Camp.

The weather was warm for this time of the year and many felt the heat on their backs as they stood in the sun through the ceremony. The backlighting of the soldiers grouped together highlighted the ANZAC poppies in their hat bands giving the appearance of small flames flicking in the sun, perhaps indicating that the spirit of NZAC is alive with the remembrance of those who have served in the armed forces through many wars.

Such was the crowd that things didn’t get underway until true ‘Pohangina time’ i.e. 10 minutes late. Liz Besley, Chairperson of the Pohangina Valley Community Committee, welcomed us all to the commemoration service, which was then conducted by the Rev. Tim Handley of Ashhurst. Children of the Awahou School led the gathering with the singing of the National Anthem and in the Waiata, ‘He Honore’, later in the service. Guest speakers were Charlie Renata of the Ashhurst Memorial RSA and John Baxter representing the Manawatu District Council who read the Governor Generals Message just as the fly past by a Grumman Avenger out of Ohakea crossed overhead. Wreathes were laid by representatives of the Army, the Manawatu District Council, Girl Guides and several members of the public. Charlie led the reciting of The Ode, followed by the playing of the Last Post as the flag was lowered to half mast, then raised again to the sound of the Reveille. Rosemary and poppies were given and people encouraged to lay them on the headstones of servicemen in the cemetery.

‘We will remember them’

Many were the greetings and conversations among those gathered afterwards, then it was for many, the walk back down Kuku Road, this time through a gently descending ‘confetti’ of falling autumn leaves dislodged by the gentle breeze that arrived at that time. Down at County Fayre pressure was mounting as those returning filtered in to take in the morning tea of ANZAC biscuits and tea/coffee, or in the case of the younger members, a heavy run on milkshakes (which quickly ran out), ice creams and cans of drink. On display were the background stories of six of the soldiers from the Pohangina Valley who went to WW1 and evocative artistic displays using symbols associated with the ANZAC tradition. One wall was devoted to a ‘Wall of Remembrance’ created by all the children of the Awahou School. These displays will be available for the next two months. At times there was little room to manoeuvre through the groups as they ebbed and flowed through the display area or congregated around the morning tea serving table.

But with the sun shining, the children playing on the back lawn and the numerous groups of animated conversationalists enjoying reminiscences (or whatever) this was a very successful community gathering.

And so we remembered them

The Pohangina Valley community is indebted to the PVCC for initiating and coordinating this project, the children of the Awahou School for their most important input, Charlie Renata of the Ashhurst RSA, John Baxter, the Army contingent, Steve Pilkington for the ‘Last Post’ and ‘Reveille’, owner Brendon Deere and pilot Jim Rankin for the Avenger fly past and Rev. Tim Handley for leading the service of remembrance. County Fayre provided the morning tea, Barbara Hyde the eight panels with the soldiers stories, the Awahou School children and Nicola Gregory for their artwork and Barbara Passey for the floral display. The display design and hanging was carried out by Nicola Gregory and Barbara Hyde.
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