This is a tale of two brothers. One returned from WWI, and one did not.
The Spriggs family were so proud of Ernest ‘Ron’ Spriggs’ achievements during his 102 years. These included becoming Mayor of Napier, being given the Freedom of the City, and receiving an MBE for services to local government.
They were just as proud of his eldest brother, Charles Arnold ‘Chas’ Spriggs. Charles was serving with the battalion heading to the ultimately successful liberation of Le Quesnoy when he was killed in action, aged 28, just a month before the war ended.
Councillor Ronda Chrystal will be thinking of both her great-uncle and her grandad, Ron, or Poppop as she called him, at the re-dedication of the Napier War Memorial on 6 August.
Ron Spriggs also served in the army in WWII.
He held many different roles over the years, but it was as Mayor he led a successful fundraising campaign for the Napier War Memorial Hall, opened in 1957.
Ron also played a role in the facility’s reopening after refurbishment in 1995. As Napier’s then oldest soldier, he relit the Eternal Flame.
“Even though Poppop was no longer Mayor when the original memorial opened, he played such a huge part in its foundation,” says Ronda.
His brother Charlie was quite a character, his humour shining through in letters to family, and workmates at the Spriggs cabinet making workshop on Shakespeare Road.
Brave, too. Charlie was awarded the DCM (Distinguished Conduct Medal) for acts of gallantry at Passchendaele the year before. It was the highest honour awarded to Napier servicemen who did not return home.
Exactly 100 years after his death, on 8 October 2018, Ronda visited the Naves Communal Cemetery Extension, in northern France, where her great-uncle was buried. She placed a rock on his grave that she had collected from the Marine Parade beach, along with a silver fern and a New Zealand flag.
Charles had been chosen that year as the soldier to be honoured at the Wellington War Memorial. Other Spriggs family members gathered there, including Ronda’s son Tom, who read the oath.
The event was livestreamed, and Ronda’s son John, who was with her, performed a haka.
She describes it as an unforgettable experience.
She is honoured to have some of the furniture Charlie made. It’s one way the family can remember him.
Ron remained a life-long Napier resident. He was an enthusiastic member of the Napier 30,000 Club, responsible for driving much of Marine Parade’s initial development. During his tenure as Mayor Ron unveiled two of Marine Parade’s icons, Pania, in 1954, and the Floral Clock, now part of the War Memorial site, in 1955.
Incidentally the Hurst family, which donated the clock, were the Spriggs’ neighbours. “I can remember him taking people to Marine Parade to see Pania and the Floral Clock, and giving them postcards as souvenirs,” recalls Ronda.
Ronda remembers the regular meetings of remaining Club members when she was a child. “Poppop loved talking. He would meet up with Arthur Miller, the last mayor of Taradale, Ron Le Quesne and Vic Wallis, in the Napier Café just to chew the fat. Poppop loved Napier.”
Councillor Ronda Chrystal, pictured outside the Napier War Memorial Centre with portraits of her grandad, former Napier Mayor, Ron Spriggs, and his brother, Charlie Spriggs, killed in action in WWI.
3 August 2023
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