Archive for June, 2013

Newsletter #10

Posted on June 21st, 2013

Welcome to the Passchendaele Society’s 10th edition of E-News. A lot has happened in the last two month…


We were well represented by our members at Anzac Day commemorations  throughout New Zealand this year. Our President Iain MacKenzie laid a wreath on behalf of the Passchendaele Society at the 11am Citizens’ Service at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

The key speaker at the Browns Bay Dawn Service opened by stressing the Passchendaele story and the Fairfax Newspapers in Christchurch also concentrated their article on the ‘forgotten’ Passchendaele story. With the help of our ever-growing number of members I believe we are succeeding in getting Passchendaele back into the New Zealand psyche!

White Crosses Project

The Te Papa Museum in Wellington launched a 5-year programme on April 18th by erecting a large-scale National Cross of Remembrance. The Cross will be the centrepiece for a changing series of displays during the years 2014 – 2018 that will commemorate significant battles and tell stories of the impact of the First World War on New Zealand. You can read more about that story here.

The Fields of Remembrance Trust officially launched the  White Crosses Project on April 17th at Parliament in Wellington and the beginning of a white crosses field was laid on April 23rd at the Auckland War Memorial Museum at the going down of the sun. The crosses were viewed (and personalised) throughout the school holidays.

The ANZAC week commemorations in Wellington culminated with an exciting televised AFL match between the St Kilda Saints and Sydney Swans teams on Anzac Day. It is the first time that a professional Australian Rules Football match has been played outside of Australia. Sydney are the reigning AFL Premiers (in Kiwi lingo the AFL champions), and St Kilda are from Melbourne. The teams played for the Simpson-Henderson Trophy in remembrance of the NZ stretcher bearer Richard Henderson who took over the duties of the Australian stretcher bearer Jack Simpson when he was shot and killed. The trophy depicts “The Man and His Donkey” on duty rescuing the wounded at Gallipoli. An interesting story about this can be read  here .  For the record, Sydney Swans won by 79 points to 63.

The White Crosses Project will hopefully become a nationwide remembrance project to commemorate individually over 100,000 New Zealanders who served overseas during World War One and in particular the 18,500+ New Zealand military personnel who lost their lives. It is hoped that communities, large and small throughout the country, will create a  Field of Remembrance comprised of white crosses which the local community will have personalised with the details of individuals from their area and then displayed on significant commemorative dates during the 5-year period. Society members are encouraged to get involved by encouraging their local councils to partake in and/or help organise the commemorations each year.

The proposal thus far is that the crosses will then be brought to the Wellington Westpac Stadium in November 2018 on a type of ‘Pilgrimage of Remembrance’, with a Whakanoa to ‘welcome home the spirits of those lying in foreign lands’ and to rejoin their comrade, the Unknown Soldier. It is proposed to maintain a 24-hour vigil in the Stadium until the Field of Remembrance crosses are ‘lifted’ in a fitting finale to New Zealand’s World War One Centenary Commemorations on November 11th 2018. The focus could then transition from commemoration to a public celebration of our Nationhood – the legacy of World War One era New Zealanders.

The City & District Councils (together with the help of the local RSAs) have the freedom to do as they choose during those 5 years but it is hoped that many will follow in the footsteps of the Whangarei City Council who bring 650 crosses out every year in a special ceremony and leave them displayed throughout Anzac week. They obtained the crosses from the Passchendaele Society after the success of the Field of Remembrance display at Fort Takapuna in 2009.

Members’ Help Required

The Passchendaele Society Board has created a list of projects that Society members have either instigated or that we support. One idea is to have a Passchendaele Play, possibly one that tells the story linking the events of 1917 with New Zealand today. Members may have links to Drama Departments at schools or universities to help get such a concept off the ground and to act as a champion on our behalf?

Alternatively there are two New Zealand plays with Passchendaele as a theme – the award winning musical play ‘King and Country’ by Dave Armstrong and ‘Passions of War’ by Marc Shaw. Local drama groups throughout the country are encouraged to consider putting on these plays during the Centenary years.


A story titled ‘A Filthy War’ at Passchendaele featured in a recent edition of the NZ Geographic magazine (the one with Down Under on the cover). Sorry I could not link it online here for you, so it would be worth your while to buy a copy or source it from your local library!

In the Fairfax “Last Post- First Light” supplement in the Sunday Star Times on April 21st, Andrew Matheson, WW100 Head says..”With all the original combatants having died and their direct descendants dwindling in numbers, the pressure’s on to collect their stories. And that’s at the heart of the programme. “It’s definitely about stories”, he says. Finding them, telling them, and preserving them – there is a need to preserve the stories so they’re not lost with the passage of time.”  Our Society also thinks the same and we have created a new page on the website called Stories…members are encouraged to send in their stories about their own ancestors’ involvement in the various battles that took place in Belgium in particular, to be featured on our website as a running Blog style as the stories come in.

The Gibson Group is about to start filming an innovative WW1 documentary series to be shown in 2014 on Prime TV. Viewers will turn on their TVs to see a World War I Kiwi war correspondent reporting live to camera followed by a studio-based news anchor signing off the news on five key dates during the War:- 20th December 1915 – The withdrawal from Gallipoli; 11th October 1916 – A court martial just after the Battle of Flers Courcelette during the Somme Offensive; 12th October 1917 – The attack at Passchendaele; 10th December 1918 – The Surafend Affair and The Sinai Palestine Campaigns; 4th November 1918 – The battle for the town of Le Quesnoy and the end of the war in Europe. Essentially the audience will be observing century old events through present day media.

Trelise Cooper was interviewed on Seven Sharp about her role as Patron of Auckland RSA and how she is excited that the awareness of the sacrifices is growing through the work of the Passchendaele Society and the Fields of Remembrance Trust, noting that it is ‘up to us to find out’ what our ancestors went through. Of note was her poppy-designed blouse and the decorations on her blazer, including the Passchendaele Society badge!

And the book An Awfully Big Adventure was discussed at the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival on May 17th. In her book, journalist Jane Tolerton quarries first-hand interviews with veterans of the Great War, originally recorded for the World War I Oral History Archive. She gives voice to the moving reminiscences of those who not only survived the war that killed 18,500 New Zealanders but lived to their 90’s when they were finally prepared to talk.

Visiting Belgium?

There is a Smartphone App available called Flanders Fields Memorials App available for Apple & Android phones for sale from the iTunes store or from Google Play. There are over 300 items listed including memorials, cemeteries, museums and trench sites. Plus heaps more such as hotels and B&Bs!

Also the New Zealand Remembrance Trail is now available to Passchendaele Society members . It is a New Zealand specific self-drive guide around the battlefields of Belgium commonly called Flanders Fields. This is being ‘test driven’ by new Board member Pauline McCowan in May and will be edited as need be, but the ‘first edition’ is available to those who are interested, contact the authors Sandi & Lode Notredame,

If you are in Belgium on October 17th 2014 then you will be interested to know that the Province of West Flanders has plans for 8000 torch-bearers along the 76 kilometres of frontline in Flanders from the beach at Nieuwpoort through to Messines, the project is called Front of Light.??The path will follow the original 1914 frontline formed after the flooding of the northern part of the area by the Belgian Army. It will cross eight council areas – Nieuwpoort, Diksmuide, Houthulst, Ieper/Ypres, Langemark-Poelkappelle, Zonnebeke, Heuvelland and Mesen/Messines. The hope is that it can be extended through Ploegsteert to the French border. It is planned that each of the council areas will have a main fire site where guests and associated activities will be focused. The Province is looking to make this both a participation event for the local communities involved as well as an opportunity to host dignitaries from both Belgium and abroad.

The Forgotten General

The docu-drama about Major General Sir Andrew Russell was shown on Prime on Sunday 21st. The film profiles the largely overlooked New Zealand Division commander on the Western Front, who was a significant figure in our country’s participation in the First World War.

The film-maker Karl Zohrab was interviewed on Radio NZ, you can hear the full 17 minute interview here.

Editor Sandi Notredame