College Rifles – Honouring Their History Today
We went to College Rifles in Haast St, Remuera, on the 16th April 2015 for a visit to their newly expanded museum which commemorates their members who went to the two world wars.
The College Rifles site was originally called Remuera Park, much of it a peat swamp of 9 acres. The bulk of the land was bought in 1948 for four thousand pounds and the building programme started in 1950 with the moving onsite of the old Akarana Yacht Club from Mechanics Bay. The military side stopped in 1952 but many military traditions continue i.e. saluting the first rifleman killed at the start of every game and the banning of any sort of hat from the club and bar areas, and the club retains links with the RSA and is a focal point for a march from Upland Rd and ceremony every Anzac Day. Last year 800 people attended on Anzac Day, with more expected for the 100th Anzac Day this month. Today the club accommodates 11 sports for 5,000 members and families to enjoy and is currently fund-raising for 2 swimming pools to be built. Membership is now 53% female and 47% male.
CEO Derek Rope spoke about how College Rifles was formed in 1897 as a cadets’ military unit with students from Auckland Grammar, Kings College and St John’s College. The sole New Zealander to win a Victoria Cross at Gallipoli was a member of College Rifles, Cyril Royston Guyton Bassett, a 23-year-old bank clerk from Mt Eden, in whose name Bassett Rd was named. During the Boer war 36 members served (3 were killed) and in WW1 330 served and 54 were killed. The museum has the only full Boer war uniform in New Zealand and a rare German flag from Samoa. Today the club values its military past and has preserved and researched its history for all to enjoy. One famous member was Thomas Grey Culling who was New Zealand’s first air ace and remains our youngest ever air ace from either WW1 or WW2. His parents lived at 23 Victoria Avenue, Remuera and his life is written up on our new website.