Ranfurly Veterans’ Home
Ranfurly Veterans’ Home, Auckland (1903)
New Zealand's first national war monument
On 1 June 1902, as the South African (Boer) War drew to a close, Governor Ranfurly suggested commemorating the fallen with a single national ‘living’ monument, a home for veterans, instead of statues or obelisks. He had nothing against stone slabs - he had visited neglected New Zealand Wars graves and encouraged the erection of statues of Queen Victoria. No, he felt that an antipodean version of London’s Chelsea Home for Pensioners would help the veterans while continuously renewing imperial ties. On Edward VII’s coronation day Ranfurly published a Roll of Honour of the colony’s 2000 imperial veterans to make his point. He personally chose the site – ‘not too near a public house yet not too far and within easy communication’ - and laid the foundation stone on Empire Day, 24 May 1903. The Auckland Veterans’ Home opened later that year, sheltering bemedalled and uniformed veterans behind its colonial verandas.
Sadly, this would be just the first of many landmarks that we would erect to commemorate or rehabilitate the casualties of our participation in overseas wars. In 1954 the home changed its name to the Ranfurly War Veterans’ Home (the ‘War’ was dropped recently ‘and Hospital’ was added more recently) to honour the Earl. The original 15 residents grew over time to peak at just over 140.
The home no longer lords it over spacious semi-rural grounds. Suburban sprawl has devoured much of the land, but the fine old building and its honours boards endure. In 2012 work began on a multi-year development that will include the refurbishment of the old building as the village community centre, and the creation of several retirement blocks of up to four storeys. This development, to be called Ranfurly Village, is a partnership between the Ranfurly War Veterans Trust and Retirement Assets Ltd; war veterans will have priority.