Heartfelt way to remember WW1 soldiers

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Recreating World War 1 sweetheart pincushions is the aim of a new community project in Wanaka.

Sue Bartlett, of Cardrona, is asking people to help make sweetheart pincushions for every soldier from Upper Clutha who participated in WW1.

When soldiers were injured and in rehabilitation, they were given a pack with sewing needles and materials to make decorative pincushions to send to their loved ones, Mrs Bartlett said.

“They got sent home to their wives, sweethearts, sisters, some female of significance to them.”

Mrs Bartlett, a teacher at Queenstown Resort College, purchased online an original sweetheart pincushion made by a soldier in WW1 and after discussions with friends came up with the idea of creating a pincushion for every WW1 soldier in the Upper Clutha region.

“There is that phrase ‘We will remember them’ and for me this is a very tangible way to remember them,” Mrs Bartlett said.

“When I stitch, I always think about the person,” she said.

Each volunteer would be given a name from a list of soldiers so they had information about the person, Mrs Bartlett said.

“For the ones that didn’t make it home we will do a slightly different finish so that people will be able to see these are the ones who didn’t make it home and these are the ones that did.”

Mrs Bartlett said a book called Courageous and Free, published by the Upper Clutha Historical Records Society (UCHRS) became an invaluable resource for her.

“In it are details about the soldiers who actually died over there, and in the back are the names and service numbers of the soldiers who managed to return,” Mrs Bartlett said.

This enabled Mrs Bartlett to have a list of names of all soldiers from the region.

Ken Allan, of Wanaka, is one of the five authors of the book.

In the course of their research they found some names of soldiers who had died had not been recorded on memorials, “so it’s great that they get recorded now”, he said.

About 33 names were listed on cenotaphs and memorials around the region, “but we ended up writing the stories of 48 people”, Mr Allan said.

The list of returned soldiers was also incomplete as well, Mr Allan said.

“We had a list of about 80 returned soldiers. I ended up discovering over 140,” he said.

He was delighted that all of the soldiers “and the one nurse” would be recognised by this project, Mr Allan said.

“It’s another way of recording their history and what they did.”

The completed sweetheart pincushions would be displayed at an exhibition in Wanaka during Armistice Day commemorations in November. The venue was to be confirmed later in the year.

The pincushions would be available for sale, with funds raised going to the Upper Clutha Returned Services Association (RSA).

Upper Clutha RSA chairman, Ian Piercy, said they were fully behind the project and thought it was very timely to have a project that commemorated 100 years since the end of World War 1.

Volunteers who were interested in participating in the project could contact Sue Bartlett on 021 135-1517 or email mojo.back.2015@gmail.com.