Stevens Way, Alexandra NZ. Location: 45.241280, 169.378124

Private Rex Joseph Stevens 284349, War Medal 1939-1945, New Zealand War Service Medal. 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (WW2).

Born and bred in the Alexandra district, Rex Stevens (05/08/1921 – 06 /02/ 2012) was employed as a printer for the local newspaper. Like so many others eager to do their bit, Stevens joined the Territorial Army, reporting to Burnham Military Camp on the 8th July 1941. In a 2005 interview for the Central Otago News, he described what happened next: “ {I} was shipped out to Egypt to train before joining the Allies in Italy just before the fall of Monte Cassino” (CO News 21/04/2005).

Private Stevens served in the 23rd Battalion, 2nd NZ Division.

Monte Cassino was a brutal winter battle for the NZ troops. In early 1944 Allied troops, including the 2nd New Zealand Division had the task of breaking a strongly fortified German defensive line in the Liri Valley region. The battlefield included the ruins of the Cassino township, and was dominated by a 500m high mountain topped with a monolithic monastery. The New Zealanders launched several unsuccessful attacks during February and March 1944; finally being withdrawn in early April “having suffered 343 deaths and over 600 wounded (NZ History Italian Campaign p.4). Cassino finally fell in May of that year.

Cassino was the low point of the New Zealand Division’s Italian campaign; the bitterness of failure coupled with so many losses. The battle left an indelible impression on Private Stevens who had up until then enjoyed the comradeship of soldiering; he commented: “after [Monte] Cassino it was different. I didn’t like it anymore”. Private Stevens spent 10 freezing days in a dug-out on the slopes below Monte Cassino “he felt lucky because he survived” (CO News 21/04/2005).

After returning to New Zealand post war, Stevens took an active role in the local Alexandra Clyde RSA becoming well known for his contribution to the organisation. He was the president from 1967 to 1968, made a life member, and awarded the NZ Merit Badge in 1986. Stevens was one of the driving forces behind the construction of the new Alexandra RSA building in the early 1970’s.

In 2005, reflecting back on his wartime experiences, Stevens voiced his concerns about the sheer senselessness of it all; “Many fine young men lost their lives for what they thought was king and country – there must be a better way to settle things. It was all so stupid”; he also acknowledged his good fortune by marrying high school friend Joan Hewitt, who helped him readjust back into civilian life (CO News 21/04/2005). Rex and Joan Stevens went on to have four children, living in the Alexandra district for the remainder of their lives.

Stevens’ service to his community and country is acknowledged by having a street in Alexandra named after him. He is also recognised on the Alexandra Clyde RSA Honours Board.

Rex was one of three Stevens brothers to enlist and serve overseas in WW2. All survived. Geoffrey was captured in 1941 and spent the remainder of the war a prisoner. Lennel enlisted in 1945, served in the Italian campaign and later in ‘J Force’ (New Zealand’s contribution to the post war occupation of Japan).

Lest we forget.


Auckland War Memorial Online Cenotaph. Private Geoffrey Maxwell Stevens 17255. Sourced from:

Auckland War Memorial Online Cenotaph. Private Lennel John Stevens 620700. Sourced from:

Auckland War Memorial Online Cenotaph. Private Rex Joseph Stevens 284349. Sourced from:

Central Otago News. Interview by Mandy Bean with Rex Stevens: “Cassino taught futility of War”. 21/04/2005.

NZ History. NZ at War, Second World War, Italian Campaign. Sourced from:

Stevens., Joe. Oral interview/s with author, July/August 2023.


Alexandra Clyde Honours Board. M Davies.

Medals, R.J Stevens. J Stevens.

Rex Stevens image. J Stevens.

QR Code for this webpage