One business particularly important to the economy was the Onehunga Woollen Mills in Neilson Street, established in the 1880s. This was one of 10 woollen mills in New Zealand. In 1915 the woollen mills teamed up to meet uniforms orders and dedicated most of their capacity to this. They produced the material which was then made into uniforms by clothing manufacturers.
The Onehunga Woollen Mills also organised social events during the war, including a social gathering held in the large warehouse at the mill, attended by over 200 people in September 1915. The mill also organised an annual ball and an annual picnic day.
The woollen business was a vital industry to the war effort. In July 1917, the mill applied to exempt William Freeman from military service – as the only dyer engaged in an essential industry, he could not be replaced, as it would take five years to train a replacement.
Research & Development
Creating material goods for the military was not the only Onehunga Mills product. In 1916 Professor Worley from Auckland University sought to create a waterproofing process, conducting his experiments at the Onehunga Woollen Mills. The results of his experiments proved invaluable when waterproofing was used by the military and applied to uniforms, tents and other materials.
After the war
Immediately after the war, Onehunga Borough Council proposed developing the 5½ acre Blockhouse Domain (set aside for military purposes in the previous century) as a war memorial park. Although the Borough Council was unable to raise the funds to fully realise its ambitions, Governor-General Lord Jellicoe was invited to open his namesake park on 26 May 1923.
Several years later an arch of remembrance, largely constructed from boulders of local scoria, was erected at the main entrance to the park. The arch was formally unveiled on 20 October 1929.
The keystone of the arch was inscribed simply with the words "Arch of Remembrance, 1914 – 1918". When the Onehunga War Memorial swimming pool was opened nearby in 1956, this incorporated an Onehunga roll of honour for both world wars, and a plaque to this effect was installed at the foot of the arch.
The pool complex has been significantly extended and redeveloped over the years since, and in 2006 the memorial wall was enhanced by the addition of a sculpted border and a small garden.
Photo credits, text sources
Old veterans at the unveiling ceremony, October 1929. Auckland Council Archives Central, OHB 026: 2-ID: 526215.
Newly completed Arch of Remembrance, October 1929. Auckland Council Archives Central, OHB 026: 2-ID: 526215.
Imelda Bargas and Tim Shoebridge from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage History Group.
'Onehunga war memorial ', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/photo/onehunga-war-memorial, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 25-Feb-2014
'Onehunga war memorial swimming pool', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/photo/onehunga-war-memorial-wall, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 25-Feb-2014