Ellerslie Events Centre garden clean-up reveals piece of Anzac history

A local community has unearthed a piece of history while overhauling a war memorial garden at Auckland's Ellerslie Events Centre.

Most people would recognise the grounds as the home of Auckland racing, but spokesman Paul Wilcox says unknown to many, it once housed injured soldiers. 

"In 1940, this - obviously prior to the war and during - was used as a military hospital."

The 722-bed hospital was set up for the National Reserve Army inside the horse racing stand. The original structure has since been torn down, and one very similar has been built in its place.

But that's not all the grounds were used for.

"[Soldiers] did their training here," Mr Wilcox says.

"Also, our members' car park was where the transport division of the army worked out of."

The historic discovery was made during preparations for the revival of the site's war memorial garden, and just in time for Anzac Day.

"Probably in the last month we found that out, when we decided we wanted to bring the garden to life more."

Award winning landscaper Xanthe White, and students at three Ellerslie primary schools have rolled up their sleeves, and done just that.

War veteran Greg Vugler says it's heartening to know the Anzac spirit is still thriving.

"It's very encouraging to see all the young people coming now, and seeing those kids doing the garden today was absolutely magic."

Mr Vugler served eight years in the navy across Southeast Asia from the mid-sixties, and says he'll display his medals proudly on Anzac Day.

"The reason you and I are standing here today is because we have the freedom to do so. The freedom was earned by our men putting their lives down. It's pretty simple really and we just can't forget that."

Ms White hopes the little piece of landscaping will make sure that doesn't happen.

"It requires us to come back and care for them as opposed to just something that looks good in the corner and you can forget about. It actually requires us to re-engage with it."