About Us

Events Leading To The Formation Of The Passchendaele Society

The prime objective of the Passchendaele Society is to increase community awareness and recognition of the events at Passchendaele and the Western Front related to the Great War of 1914-1918.

1.0 The Ypres Agreement (2007)

2.0 Passchendaele: The Belgians Have Not Forgotten (2009)

3.0 The Passchendaele Society (2011)

4.0 The 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele (2017) 

1.0     The Ypres Agreement (2007)

Ninety years after the Battle of Passchendaele an agreement, between the Flemish Government and the New Zealand Government, relating to cooperation in the field of the shared history of the World Wars of the twentieth century was signed in Ypres on 4 October 2007 by the Right Honourable Helen Clark then Prime Minister of New Zealand. The agreement committed New Zealand to cooperate 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…” The significance of 4 October is that this was the anniversary of the Battle of Broodseinde which resulted in s’Gravenstafel being captured by New Zealanders as part of the advance towards Passchendaele.  After the signing, the Prime Minister also attended a Commemoration Ceremony at the New Zealand Memorial Monument at s’Graventafel.  She returned to New Zealand to commemorate on 12 October the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele at the cenotaph in the Auckland Domain and gave the address at this ceremony. That somewhat belated recognition by the New Zealand government came as a welcome sign that Passchendaele has not been forgotten!

 2.0     Passchendaele: The Belgians Have Not Forgotten (2009)

The Ypres Agreement of 2007 also inspired the Passchendaele Memorial Museum to create a travelling exhibition entitled “Passchendaele: The Belgians Have Not Forgotten”. This exhibition was sent, free of charge, to New Zealand where it visited Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Featherstone and the National Army Museum in Waiouru before finishing its journey in Auckland.  With the considerable support of North Shore City Council we staged a wonderfully successful exhibition at Fort Takapuna which attracted more than 10,000 visitors. Commemoration activities were built around the exhibition.  A Passchendaele Concert arranged at the Bruce Mason Centre was a sell-out success six weeks before the concert. A March Past and Review was attended by the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable John Key, and the Ambassador of Belgium, His Excellency Patrick Renault. The sunset Commemoration Ceremony at Fort Takapuna was made memorable by the Royal Regiment of the New Zealand Artillery Band. The Regiment had three battalions at Passchendaele and their colour party proudly carried the honours won at Passchendaele. A moving version of “In Flanders Fields” was delivered the Takapuna College Girls’ Choir. The ceremony ended with the lowering of the New Zealand ensign and the Belgian flag and a wreath laying ceremony led by the Mayor and the Belgian Ambassador. The local community support at these ceremonies can only be described as truly incredible and memorable.

The success of the 2009 activities led to Passchendaele being commemorated, albeit in a low key manner, at the Cenotaph in the Domain in 2010. At a meeting in the Auckland War Memorial Museum following the ceremony it was decided to take action towards forming The Passchendaele Society.

 3.0   The Passchendaele Society (2011) 

The Passchendaele Society was formed in March 2011. Our prime objective is to ensure that New Zealanders are aware of the role played by New Zealand at the Western Front and at Passchendaele. Within that overall framework we have established six main goals  which follow the six key points of the Ypres agreement. These goals will be achieved by organising ourselves into six main areas of activity each led by a member of the Board.

Community.  Will work to increase community awareness, recognition and understanding of Passchendaele and the Western Front.

Younger Generations.  Will educate and disseminate information to younger generations and encourage them to think and articulate about what happened and how it affected their families and what the consequences would have been for them today if those 100,000 New Zealanders had not gone to war.

Commemorations.  Will commemorate the Battle of Passchendaele on 12 October each year and honour the war dead in many different and individualistic ways. We want to achieve not just Government organised commemorations but community and people oriented responses.

Commemorative Sites.  Will preserve, interpret and improve access to the 500 commemorative sites which were established in this country because we had no bodies to bury and will promote tourism to those sites and to commemorative sites in Flanders and the Western Front.

 Heritage Material.  Will collect, conserve, maintain and interpret heritage material. Support in different sites the role played by the Auckland War Memorial Museum which can’t be expected to house and show all the heritage material associated with the First World War.

Communications. Communicate with organisations who share our objectives such as (we hope):

  • the Ministry of Heritage and Culture
  • the Auckland Council
  • Individual RSA’s
  • community organisations in Auckland and those outside of Auckland such as:
  • the Waimakariri-Zonnebeke Trust
  • Featherstone which has a twinning relationship with Messines
  • Cambridge which has a similar relationship with Le Quesnoy
  • communicate with like-minded organisations in Belgium, Australia, the UK and Canada who played a significant role at Passchendaele.

 A key role of communications will be in bringing the activities of the Passchendaele Society to the notice of the public.

The Passchendaele Society then, will be a team of people from many different elements of the community who can see the relevance of our objectives and who will work within their own communities because they identify with those objectives. Anyone who can help us achieve our objectives should be encouraged to join The Passchendaele Society .They will receive support and assistance from a dedicated Board of Directors with the skills, practical experience and network of contacts who can help them turn individual efforts into a united team experience.

Success will be measured by the number and quality of activities which we initiate in those six major areas. It is through those happenings that people will become much more aware of Passchendaele and its place in our history, culture and heritage.

 4.0     The 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele (2017)

One special goal is to ensure that there is nationwide recognition of the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele on 12 October 2017. Pressure has been put on the Government to acknowledge this event on a National basis and it has now been confirmed in the Cabinet Agenda. It will happen!

Although Passchendaele and the Western Front have been largely forgotten in terms of national recognition when you dig deeper at a community and family level you discover that Passchendaele is far from forgotten. Perhaps it is only now when the feelings of anguish and pain and suffering have diminished we can, as communities, bring Passchendaele more into perspective. We need to have the opportunity and the occasion to remember it. Such an occasion was created in 2009 when we erected 5,000 white crosses on the old parade ground at Fort Takapuna before the exhibition “Passchendaele : The Belgians Have Not Forgotten”. As the exhibition progressed those crosses became decorated by family members with photographs and details of those who had fallen. The anonymous crosses turned into personalised remembrance symbols.

The Passchendaele Society therefore wants to emphasise the impact which Passchendaele had on communities. People instigated happenings will be much more spontaneous and human than government initiatives and consequently we envisage a series of community activities. These activities will be the response of the people in these communities as they are encouraged to reflect on what Passchendaele meant and means to them.  We would like to widen the scope of commemorative activities by involving the arts and recreational activities  – dance, music, sports and literature. We want to mobilise all the activities in a community to recognise that they flourish and exist today because of the sacrifices made by New Zealanders in fighting for their freedom.

Anyone with ideas on how we can achieve all this should be encouraged to join the Passchendaele Society.