PTE. SAMUEL CHASE ~ 17 August 2018 ~ Update.

A shell-shocked soldier from the Hawkes Bay, buried in an unmarked grave in Nelson, is to have his WW1 service remembered and honoured.    

Sam Chase at Ohemate, Waipawa c1920 – not all is as it seems.

When Private Samuel Chase returned to his home in Takapau after the war he was ‘damaged’, seriously damaged.  He tried to control and suppress the horrors he had been exposed to but Sam’s ‘scars of war’ ran deep and continued to haunt him.  The only pathway deemed appropriate for a soldier with Sam’s afflictions was committal, first to the Porirua Lunatic/Mental Asylum in 1921 and then south to the Ngawhatu Asylum in Nelson in the early 1930s.  It was at Ngawhatu, alone and without family or whanau, that Samuel Chase died in 1941 and was buried in the Catholic Section of the Wakapuaka Cemetery with two other Asylum inmates – pauper’s graves for all three, unmarked and anonymous.

While researching a WW1 service medal awarded to Sam that had been sent to me to find a descendant for, I was most surprised to find that Sam Chase had been buried here in Nelson.  I went to visit his grave and was deeply saddened to discover that this returned New Zealand soldier, a man tormented by the memories of his service for King and Country, had been laid to rest miles from his family and Central Hawkes Bay home, without any acknowledgement from the State – there was no grave marker! 

For many soldiers like Sam the end did not come quickly; not by bomb, bullet, bayonet, bugs or drowned in a sea of mud – but theirs was a sacrifice none the less.  Sam’s sacrifice was ‘slow burning’, one of recurrent nightmares, confusion, sedation, ECT, abuse, neglect, denial of freedom, of family and friends or any hope for a future.  These were the horrors Sam Chase endured for years and were only bought to an end (mercifully) by his death.  This then was the supreme price Sam Chase paid for his sacrifice – perhaps a bullet on the battlefield would have been a more merciful?  R.I.P 

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It is my belief no returned service person should ever end their lives, irrespective of circumstances, without the State honouring their service and sacrifice by defining their last resting place … and so I was moved to rectify this travesty on behalf of Private Chase. 

Last Friday (17 Aug) 6/4594 Private Samuel Chase – 2nd Canterbury Infantry Battalion, a forgotten soldier who has lain in his unmarked grave for more than 77 years, buried without honour, fanfare, funeral or bugle calls, will now be remembered … always.  Pte. Samuel Chase now has what every returned WW1 soldier deserved, and was entitled to – a soldier’s headstone – one of uniform design to serve as a visible and permanent reminder of his life, service and sacrifice.  A dedication ceremony, blessing and bugle calls is being planned with a local tohunga and iwi to honour and remember this once forgotten soldier.

~ kei konei te hoia .. kia okioki ia i runga i te rangimarie ~ 

(here lies a soldier ~ may he rest in peace)

Wakapuaka Cemetery, Nelson – 17 August 2018

Read the original story of Sam Chase and his medal here:

SAMUEL CHASE ~ The lost medal of a Hawkes Bay soldier who died alone in a Nelson Asylum.

Wakapuaka Cemetery – looking west towards the Tasman Sea