New Zealand’s Darkest Day

On the 12th of October 1917, 846 young New Zealanders were killed in the first four hours of the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium. By the end of the day the total number of casualties, the wounded, the dead and the missing was 2,700. It took two and a half days to clear the battlefield of the dead and injured.

On the 4th October 2007 (the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Broadseinde) the Rt.Hon Helen Clark ONZ representing the Government of New Zealand was in Ypres where together with the Flemish Government they signed the Ypres Agreement. The agreement committed New Zealand to co-operate in “… increasing broad community recognition … educating younger generations … honouring the war dead … preserving heritage material … and encouraging tourism to commemorative and historical sites in Flanders and New Zealand…” This agreement inspired the 2009 exhibition  “Passchendaele: The Belgians Have Not Forgotten”.  and the erection of 5,000 white crosses on the parade ground of Fort Takapuna. The Passchendaele Society (Inc) was formed in March 2011 by a dedicated group of enthusiasts who want to ensure New Zealand’s darkest day is not forgotten.

It is with great pleasure that the Passchendaele Society’s ‘project team’ announces the launch of the New Zealand Garden Appeal. Donations are now being sought to help fund the New Zealand Memorial Garden at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 in the village of Zonnebeke, Belgium.  The area around the villages of Zonnebeke and Passchendaele in the province of Flanders is of immense significance to New Zealand and its involvement in World War I. A staggering 5,000 New Zealanders were killed in Flanders in the series of battles leading to the Battle of Passchendaele.

The Passchendaele Memorial Gardens project includes seven poppy-shaped small gardens designed to represent each nation involved, including Australia and the UK. This is an important opportunity for New Zealand to be represented with its own garden. The gardens are all in the shape of a poppy when seen from the air. Elements include three large “petals”, delineated by red planks; a central area designed for seating containing black gravel; a smaller “petal” containing an information panel; and a flagpole. Plant species will be typical for the represented nation. We published a request for expressions of interest and proposals – the winning design was submitted by Cathy Challinor of Boffa Miskell, a prominent design practice in New Zealand. You can see the winning design here.

You can make a donation towards the creation of the New Zealand Memorial Garden by clicking on the ‘Donate Now’ button below – 100% of your donation will go towards this nationally significant project.

More information on the Passchendaele Society may be found via the “About Us” button at the top of this page  and our Newsletter is available under the “Newsletters” button.  This website seeks to provide Society members, students and casual visitors alike with a channel to e-sources and resources on the First World War. Please explore our website for links to World War I websites, information on the Passchendaele Offensive, it’s context in the First World Warand the essay “Why don’t we remember Passchendaele? 

Click on Membership for options to join the Society.

The Passchendaele Society acknowledges the generous support of:

The Royal New Zealand Returned Services Association (RNZRSA), The Auckland RSA, The Devonport RSAThe Auckland Officers’ Club, and The Rotary Club of Newmarket.