New Zealand Memorial & Garden – Passchendaele

The Passchendaele Society is proud to be involved as Project Leader for the New Zealand Memorial & Garden at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 in the village of Zonnebeke, Belgium. The Maori name is: ‘Nga Pua Mahara The Petals of Remembrance’ –  “Pua” is also a seed or flower and, in that way, represents hope for peace in the future.

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. The New Zealand Memorial & Garden is being created in remembrance of the more than 5000 New Zealanders who were killed or mortally wounded in the series of battles leading to the Battle of Passchendaele. Most still lie in the surrounding Flanders Fields, others made it over to the border of France only to die at a later date in a Field Dressing Station or hospital and are thus buried in French soil. They are all remembered here at the Memorial & Garden, Lest we Forget!

The Passchendaele Memorial Park in Zonnebeke  includes seven poppy-shaped small gardens designed to represent each nation involved, including Australia, Canada, UK and Germany. This is an important opportunity for New Zealand to be represented with its own permanent Memorial.

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:

Progress on the New Zealand Memorial & Garden at the Zonnebeke Chateau near Passchendaele is progressing along very nicely. The site will undoubtedly become the focal point for future commemorations.

Progress updates will be posted below as they come to light:

Tuesday 14th March: 

Five shipping containers were blessed & Farewelled this morning in a moving dawn ceremony in front of the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Inside the containers were all of the New Zealand made components for the New Zealand Memorial & Garden in Zonnebeke, Belgium. Also included in the shipment was a bucket of freshly dug soil taken from the site of the new Belgian Memorial to be built at the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington. As the 5,000 soldiers that still lie in Flanders Fields can never return to home soil, the soil will be taken to Flanders. “Provide me with a handful of soil from my homeland so I may feel the warmth of my ancestors and weep” 

You can find the New Zealand Herald Story here: 

March 2017: Dawn ceremony and blessing to farewell NZPM&G containers 

It has now been confirmed with Auckland Council that the Dawn Ceremony & Blessing to Farewell the NZ Passchendaele Memorial and Garden shipping containers will take place on Tuesday, 14 March 17.

Outline: The event will be about 30 minutes duration and will include a Maori blessing and relevant veteran rituals (a bugler & a piper, etc.). This will be a low-key event observing appropriate protocols for the start of this historic journey which evokes the similar journey undertaken by New Zealanders going to World War I a hundred years ago. It can be seen as a ‘curtain raiser’ for the forthcoming year of events commemorating the centenary of Passchendaele and there is already strong media interest in the dawn event. Tea/coffee, etc. will be served on site after the ceremony.

Location: Auckland Domain on the Museum Circuit road adjacent to the Memorial Water Feature on the western forecourt with the Cenotaph & AWMM in the background

Timings: Gather by 6.45am; Ceremony commences 6.50am & concludes 7.20am Tuesday, 14 March 17 (Civil Twilight begins at 6.52am & Sunrise is at 7.18am)

Organization: The event will be jointly hosted by the Passchendaele Society and Auckland Council, with support from AWMM.

The following two photos are of the Remembrance Column being cast:

Photo one shows the form work with the pins which will create the 2,700 bullet holes. NB: the form work is upside down and the door is at the top.


Photo two shows the finished item with pins removed, revealing the bullet holes which allow small shafts of light into the column.

It was decided to cast the Remembrance Column in one piece after all rather than in sections and it will be safely transported in a specially made steel cradle inside the shipping container.





February 2017: Progress Update

NZ based manufacturing of the memorial is well underway and on schedule for shipping to Belgium in March 2017. Practical completion of the project is scheduled by end of July 2017 in time for the official centenary commemorations in October 2017. Photographs of various aspects of manufacturing have been circulated to Board members. Other photos will follow over the next few weeks and these will be added progressively to the Society’s website. It is also intended to provide a presentation on progress with the project at the AGM on 30 March.

The Official Opening: Discussions are proceeding with NZ Embassy officials in Brussels (in particular Deputy Ambassador Andrew Gillespie and Military Attaché Captain Shaun Fogarty, RNZN). They met with Belgian representatives in Zonnebeke late last week and we expect to hear the outcomes of this meeting shortly. Timing of the official opening event is yet to be finalized. Principal options being considered are mid-afternoon on 12 October 2017 or late afternoon on 11 October 2017. Preference is expected to be given to the latter and this would avoid cluttering the already busy schedule on of events on the 12th while providing the opening the status of ‘curtain raiser’ for the series of NZ commemorative events which would follow. An opening ceremony late on the 11th would precede the 7.30pm Menin Gate ceremony which on 11 October 2017 will be especially dedicated to New Zealand. Arrangements have been made for soil to be provided from the intended site of the Belgian Memorial at Pukeahu in Wellington to be sprinkled on the NZ garden at Zonnebeke during the opening ceremony. Further details of the official opening will be made available for members as planning proceeds.

 Farewell Blessing Ceremony: Arrangements are under way for a proposed dawn ceremony outside AWMM to farewell and bless the three loaded shipping containers carrying the NZ manufactured components to Belgium. The actual date for loading the ship is yet to be confirmed but the ceremony is currently proposed for 7 March 2017. Details will follow shortly.


The two photos are of manufacturing the large bronze letters at Skellerns in Avondale and the formwork being made at Amediate Engineering in East Tamaki.





Official visits October 2016:

The Hon. Maggie Barry MP, Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage visited Flanders in October 2016 to unveil the new Memorial at the bottom of Bellevue Spur dedicated to all those that lost their lives during the Passchendaele Offensive. The monument is a large scale version of the Nga Tapuwae sign as seen on the Wellington waterfront and depicts the battlefield as viewed from that spot on October 12th 1917 – to recap the New Zealand Division’s involvement in the push towards the village of Passchendaele resulted in our worst day in Military history recorded on 12th October 1917 when we lost 846 of our men on Bellevue Spur on just one day during the Passchendaele Offensive!

A similar Memorial was also unveiled that overlooks the Messines battlefield. Mrs Barry also attended a special Memorial service for Dave Gallaher at Nine Elms Cemetery near Poperinge. The Defence Blacks also attended the service. She then proceeded to our Memorial & Garden plot to plant a New Zealand flax, the first of many that will soon be planted!

John Key also visited Tyne Cot Cemetery (but not the New Zealand Memorial & Garden) while he was in Belgium to present an Honorary Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit to our own Freddy Declerck.