Public recognition of WWI war resister Archibald Baxter is a step closer following the selection of three finalists in a competition to build a memorial in the Otago
Museum Reserve. In 1917, with 13 fellow conscientious objectors from Otago, Baxter was deported to the Western Front on the troopship Waitemata and subjected to threats and physical abuse for his refusal to serve in the army, culminating in his subjection to Field Punishment No. 1. He remained deeply opposed to war throughout his life.
The competition was organised by the Archibald Baxter Memorial Trust, and the judging panel included Trust members, members of the Baxter family, representatives from the Dunedin City Council and the Dunedin School of Art at Otago Polytechnic. Alan Jackson, the trust’s honorary secretary, said that the completed memorial will honour Baxter and his companions in a reflective sculptural setting that will offer visitors the chance to contemplate their sacrifice and consider alternatives to war.He added that at present there is no memorial in New Zealand to Baxter or indeed any of the country’s conscientious objectors in any war.
Mr Jackson said that the three finalists were chosen from a very strong field following a rigorous selection process. They are sculptor Peter Nicholls of Dunedin; the Baxter Design Group of Queenstown (no relation to Archibald’s family); and metal engineer and sculptor Lawrie Forbes and sculptor Stuart Griffiths, both of Dunedin, who submitted a joint entry.
Each finalist has been given $1500 to progress their design and they have until 31st January 2016 to complete their revised submissions for the selection of the winning design. The winner will receive $15 000 to develop the design to the final stage with ‘every i dotted and t crossed’. The trust hopes that the memorial will be in place by March 2017 to mark the 100th anniversary of Baxter’s arrest in Dunedin.
Mr Jackson added that further information about the trust and the memorial can be found on the trust’s website, where supporters would also have the opportunity to donate to the considerable costs involved in the project.