A Brief History Of The Tauranga Returned Services (Inc)
As the song goes? “Lets start at the beginning, what a very good place to start.” – Tauranga RSA
‘A meeting of Returned Soldiers was held in the Foresters Hall yesterday afternoon,the 12th December 1918. Mr Wintle, convenor, explained that the meeting had been called with the object of forming a branch of the Returned Soldiers Association in Tauranga.
Mr Fryers was appointed Chairman of the meeting. It was unanimously agreed on the motion of Mr Edwards, seconded by Mr Pillow that a branch of the Returned Soldiers Association be formed in Tauranga.
Mr JF Wintle was elected to the position of Secretary. Officers were elected as follows:- President : Colonel G. Arnold Ward Vice President : E. Barker, E. Brassey and J. Wrigley Committee : A. Edwards, J. Berridge, C.N. Clark, D.J. Fryers, and J.H. Armstrong.
A vote of thanks to Mr L. Norris for the free use of the Foresters Hall , also to Mr Fryers for presiding. This terminated the first meeting of the Returned Soldiers in this district and judging from the interest of those present in the proceedings, then local branch gives every promise of developing into a live institution.”
This extract copied from the BOP Times 13th December 1918. The Bay of Plenty Times dated 30th December 1918 reported that a recent meeting of the Tauranga Returned Association has changed its name to Bay of Plenty Returned Soldiers Association. All agreed. A live institution is continued to be held on Friday in January 1919.
Mr J.F. Wintle wrote to The Bay of Plenty Times “Returned Soldiers, you owe a duty to your disabled comrades and more especially to the loved ones of the comrade swho will never return. With the welfare of those in view, we ask you to become a member of the Western Bay of Plenty Returned Solders Association. Returned men should realise that only by unity can they claim their rights and obtain them. It would have fared ill with us on the battlefield have our different units not acted as a
common whole against a common foe.
The Returned Services Association is out to help those men who come back broken by the war, to help preserve the interest of those who have yet to return, and to render every aid and consolation to the wives and dependents of comrades abroad and a dependence of men who have fallen in the great war.”
I, you, we, can now see the wisdom and foresight of these early committee members and realise the importance of welfare. “People Helping People”, a wonderful R.S.A. proverb.
Various venues were used to hold committee meetings, Opera House, Forester Hall, Coronation Hall, but at the council meeting Mr Colin Norris indicated that he has arranged with his partner Mr Bell for the R.S.A. to have free use of the room as a club room in that block of buildings at the corner of Devonport Road and Strand extension.
Friday 21st March 1919. At the council meeting convened by the R.S.A. plans were made for an arrangement for fittingly commemorating Anzac Day which had just been recently gazetted as a public holiday. This certainly was a live institution. Bay of Plenty Times – 16th April 1919.
The first annual general meeting of the Western Bay of Plenty Returned Soldiers Association was held in the Coronation Hall, Tauranga on the 11th April 1919. The following officers and committee were
appointed for the year ending 31 March 1920:- President : H.A. Washer, Vice President : H. Spooner, P. Clarke.
The local branch members, all veterans of the Boer War and the Great War, realised during World War 2 that there would be a huge increase of new members when the war ended as they set about raising funds for the purchase of a section in Grey Street.
After the war, in 1946 the NZ patriotic council gave their buildings to the R.S.A. for use as clubrooms. These buildings were built behind the old Town Hall as a leave center for troops camped in and around Tauranga during World War 2. Catering facilities were available so the R.S.A. was able to offer meals to members and the public.
One member, Harry Monk was so impressed with the efforts made by the R.S.A. for Returned men that he bequested his estate to the R.S.A. to build nine pensioner flats for indigent Returned soldiers. This started a search for land more suitable than the section in Grey Street which was sold. The present site 889 Cameron Road adjoining the public hospital was purchased from Mr Menzies using R.S.A. own funds for 7400 pounds.
A. Fleming and Sons were granted to build the clubhouse at a cost of 16122 pounds 3 shillings and 9 pence, and this money to be guaranteed by the Homewood Trust provided the R.S.A. would not apply or endeavour to obtain a charter.
Mr George Alley was a great benefactor to Katikati and many organisations. He set up the Homewood Trust named after a Te Puke farm that he gave to the trust for training Returned men who wished to become farmers. All profits from the farm was to go to the trust for the welfare of returned men in the Western Bay of Plenty. That trust is still functioning today.
In 1948 the Western Bay of Plenty R.S.A. reverted to separate associations for Katikati, Mt Maunganui, Te Puke and Tauranga. A name change was also made from Returned Soldiers Association to acknowledge the inclusion of Navy and Air Force members.
The President, Mr Cocker in his 1955 report says: “We have our new home, a home where membership can assume a greater meaning for all of us.” He was referring to the new clubrooms which were officially opened on 19th March 1955. A Bay of Plenty Times report of the event was published.
“So with the opening of the new club it also opened many avenues of activities not readily available or convenient elsewhere. ” We now have the usual Committees like Executive, Housie, Women’s Section,
Indoor and Outdoor Bowling Clubs, Darts, Snooker, and Pool clubs. Euchre, 500 cards, Cribb, Ladies Indoor Fitness, Rock and Roll, a Choral Group, Navy, Army and Air Force, Korean and Malayan veterans, KEV’s and quiz evenings to name a few.
The following are some brief resume’s of individual clubs and people covering the last fifty years. The Association rapidly expanded requiring more room and another hall was built, the latest being the Niven Mitchell Hall built on to the existing ones which had been added on over the years. The club now provides for funerals, weddings, birthdays, anniversary, reunion, national indoor and outdoor sporting
events. The club provides the opportunity to participate in numerous activities, all you have to do is “just do it.”
Access to the club from the car park is by steps and a sloped ramp for wheelchair members. The foyer has honour boards on the walls leading into the main lounge and hall, with one of the honour boards depicts the former presidents from 1955.