Archive for November, 2013

Newsletter #12

Posted on November 25th, 2013

Welcome to the Passchendaele Society’s 12th edition of E-News. May I also take the opportunity to wish you all Season’s Greetings on behalf of your Board.

96th Commemoration

The Commemoration of the 96th Anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele was held on Saturday 12th October at 11am in the Auckland War Memorial Museum. The First World War Hall of Memories was filled to over-flowing capacity; however one significant member who was missing was our very own President, Iain MacKenzie!  He had a rather untimely and unfortunate visit to the hospital but has recovered beautifully and has since laid a wreath on behalf of the Passchendaele Society on Armistice Day, November 11th

A highlight of the Ceremony included a speech by the Chief of Army, Major General David Gawn MBE who admitted that up until a few weeks beforehand he knew very little about our involvement at Passchendaele until his mother started telling him the stories about his Grandfather who fought there! This admission is a true reflection of just about every New Zealander who does not know the part played their very own ancestors, which is why the telling of the ‘stories’ is becoming so important.

Other highlights were:-

  •  The original rendition of the staggeringly poignant “In Flanders Fields” composed by David Hamilton and sung by members of the Auckland Choral, conducted by Prof. Uwe Grodd – many of the members admitted they were very moved while singing the original words by Lt. Col. John McCrae.
  • An ensemble of eight members from the New Zealand Army Band who flew up from Christchurch to provide the music from 10.30am and throughout the Ceremony.
  • The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Hon. Michael Woodhouse, made a presentation to the winner of the multi-media competition for Year 13 students : “Why Don’t We Remember The Battle of Passchendaele?” – this year’s worthy recipient being James Costello Ladanyi from Scots College, Wellington with his entry titled “Passchendaele – Stuck in Gallipoli’s Shadow”. We hope to place his winning Video on our website in the not too distant future.
  • A video of the complete Commemoration Ceremony was taken by our Videographer, Mr Phil Thomson, who will make a DVD and include a booklet incorporating the main speeches. We will advise on our website when this DVD is available to purchase and the price.
  • Many members and VIP guests then went on to the Luncheon which was again hosted by The Auckland Officers’ Club at the Northern Club on Princes Street. It was noted that attendees at this event had grown at such a rapid rate each year from 45 to 58 to 75 attendees, that numbers would exceed capacity next year, so it will be advised to book early for next year’s Luncheon as it will be on a Sunday!


The All Blacks Supporters Tour departed on November 6th for Europe. Included in their tour is a visit to Passchendaele and Tyne Cot Cemetery on Armistice Day, where all 130 members of the tour group wore their Passchendaele Society badges!  A significant part of this year’s commemorations in Belgium was the handing over of the soil from cemeteries in the Ypres’ region for the Flanders Fields Memorial Garden in London.  HRH Prince Philip and HRH Prince Laurent from Belgium participated in the ceremony.

The New Zealand Remembrance Trail has now been completed and is a beautifully presented 24 page colour brochure detailing from A to Z a New Zealand specific self-dive tour around Flanders Fields. The Board is now in the process of seeking funding to print an initial 5,000 copies. These will be made available free of charge to Passchendaele Society members when they are printed.

The Passchendaele Society has produced a colourful A2 poster for RSAs that have become members to display in their clubrooms. Extra copies are available to them free of charge.  We hope also to provide similar A3 posters to every High School in New Zealand (subject to funding).  If you are a teacher please do not hesitate to ask!

An NZ TV Series for 2014 is to include re-enactment of Passchendaele. It is being produced in Wellington by Gibson Group for screening in 2014. See for more information “… holes are being dug at Avalon in Lower Hutt to double as shell holes at Passchendaele, the site of the most deadly battle for New Zealand soldiers”.

The theme for the main garden at the 2014 Ellerslie Flower International Flower Show in Christchurch is the “100th anniversary of the First World War”.

The WW100 website is an excellent resource for staying abreast of developments and WW1 projects, particularly for those in the smaller regions and communities, as well as Legacy Projects of National significance.

The Society is now registered with IRD as a Charitable Organisation and due to this registration, has also been granted Donee Organisation status.  Individuals can claim a tax credit for donations ($5 or more) made to the Passchendaele Society (PS) and they can claim back 1/3rd of all donations within limits.

Summer Reading

The Silent Division & Concerning One Man’s War 1914 – 1919 : The book is in three parts and combines two writings by the late Ormond Burton – in aggregate it amounts to a history of The New Zealand Division in WWl (less Palestine). Burton gives front-line first-hand descriptions of all the major battles in which the NZEF was engaged from Gallipoli through to the Battle of Bapaume in August 1918. His vivid, individual experiences have not been previously published. Ormond Burton also wrote the History of the Auckland Regiment NZEF, in 1921. He was on the front-line in the Battle of Broodseinde with the 2nd Auckland – Burton was shot at point-blank range, but the bullet barely made it through his pocket’s contents and the wound was not fatal. What saved him were two old photographic prints of Ormond Burton’s much-loved sister Dorothy. He had them in his breast pocket together with his New Testament, this combination saved his life. Both prints were pierced by the same bullet and feature in his book. The due date of release has yet to be announced but is planned for February and I hope to be able to convey to you the date and location of the book-launch.

Passchendaele : The Anatomy of a Tragedy : Andrew Macdonald’s new book on the New Zealanders at Passchendaele was released in September. This extensively researched book tells the story of one of the darkest hours of Australia and New Zealand?s First World War military history. With the forensic use of decades-old documents and soldier accounts, it unveils for the first time what really happened on the war-torn slopes of Passchendaele, why, and who was responsible for the deaths and injuries of thousands of soldiers in the blue clay of Flanders. His book is far more than a simple narrative of battle and includes critical and comparative assessments of command, personality, training, discipline, weapons, systems, tactics and the environment. Along the way it offers numerous unique insights that have, until now, been obscured by a nearly century-old fog of war.

In Flanders Fields by Monty Ingram is another recommendation – his diary has been described by Prof. Glyn Harper as one of the most vivid, gripping and revealing diaries which provides a remarkable insight into the mind of a front-line Digger. It is a wonderful learning resource for understanding the true nature of a soldier’s WW1 experience, not only in battle, but in other aspects of life. A copy of this book was presented to the Passchendaele Society at the last AGM by Neil Ingram.


The FoRT (Fields of Remembrance Trust) has launched their new website, please visit to follow their progress. Devonport has established its initial Field of Remembrance & Community Cross of Remembrance. It was installed on Sunday 3rd  November and it will be in place until 17th November. Each cross is personalised and includes details of the individual’s connection with Devonport. It will grow each year and will be established on key dates throughout the Centenary period, including around October 12th. Local schools & community groups are now becoming involved as interest continues to develop. Ideas, resources and experiences from the process are now being shared with other communities who already have a Field of Remembrance or who wish to create their own.

Suburban Newspaper Competition

The winners of the Suburban Newspapers essay writing competition were also present at the Commemoration on October 12th –  this year’s winners of the Passchendaele Tribute were Georgia Warwick, Dragon Chen and Kobanaa Poopalasingham. This competition is aimed at young people up to the age of 16 to encourage them to talk with older relatives and/or to use additional biographical information available on websites such as the Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph database, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Archway Archives.

Interesting Links

Society member Paul Turner has produced an excellent video to his moving song about Passchendaele from a New Zealand perspective and features original photos of our boys in the Flanders’ mud. Here is another You Tube clip you may not have seen called On the Road to Passchendaele – it was performed during the Tattoo on Flanders in 2007.

WW1 items are available to view online in the hope of giving voice to the thousands of soldiers who died. You can read more about that story here.

If you missed the story in the New Zealand Herald about the mock practise battlefield then here it is ; and more recently the story about Belgium’s plans in the coming years then you can read about that here.

How to contact us

Telephone: (09) 413 5322 (Hon. Secretary Bob Davis) or email: