Newsletter #9

Posted on April 4th, 2013

2013 AGM

This year’s AGM of the Passchendaele Society was held at the Auckland War Memorial Museum on Thursday 14th March – many thanks to those that could attend! Most of the Board members have returned to office except for Bill Rayner who has stepped down as Hon. Treasurer. This portfolio has been taken up by Phil Martell. The other change in office is the new Board member, Pauline McCowan, who takes over the Younger Generations portfolio now that Phil has become the Treasurer. The Annual Report can be read here.

White Crosses Project

The Fields of Remembrance Trust  will officially launch the  White Crosses Project on April 17th at Parliament in Wellington and then on April 18th the Te Papa Museum will install 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 War on New Zealand.

The ANZAC week commemorations in Wellington will culminate on Anzac Day with an AFL match between the St Kilda Saints and Sydney Swans teams. It is the first time that a professional Australian 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 will be playing 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 will depict “The Man and His Donkey” on duty rescuing the wounded at Gallipoli.

It is hoped that the White Crosses Project will receive considerable publicity throughout all of these events this month, it could also be a great excuse to visit Wellington at that time!

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 that 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 personalized 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 and/or to 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 brings 650 crosses out every year in a special ceremony and leaves them displayed throughout Anzac week. They obtained the crosses from the Passchendaele Society after the success of the Fields of Remembrance display at Fort Takapuna in 2009.

AGM … continued

Several members took the opportunity to take the floor at the AGM, namely Cameron Brewer who has been appointed to the Auckland Council World War One Centenary Political Steering Group which will be chaired by Councillor Sandra Coney. Cameron is interested to hear from the Passchendaele Society  on our views of the major happenings involving New Zealand which should be particularly commemorated during the period 2014-2018. These events will shortly be highlighted on our website.

Ian Levien gave an account on the  NZ Veterans’ Band tour to Flanders in 2012, as well as a brief outline of their planned tour to Brisbane in 2013. The full report can be read here. Ian extended an invitation to any member who wished to find out more about the Band to contact him.

His talk finished with a particularly amusing anecdote about an occasion when 3 couples on a post-tour visit to the Netherlands were wearing their Passchendaele Society badges while travelling by train. The Conductor happened to be Italian and upon seeing the badges upgraded them all to First Class with the explanation that “your countrymen liberated my Grandparents’ village in Italy during the last Great War.   We have never forgotten.” The moral of the story is: always wear your PS badge as you never know where your next upgrade may occur, a great investment at only $6!

Neil Ingram gave a brief presentation on the diary of his father which has been published under the title In Flanders Fields: the World War One Diary of Private Monty Ingram. A copy of the book was then presented to the Passchendaele Society.

The final speaker was Chris Mullane on behalf of the Fields or Remembrance Trust updating members on the White Crosses Project.

Unknown NZ soldier laid to rest

The remains of an unknown New Zealand soldier killed on the Western Front during World War I were re-buried on Monday 25th February in a ceremony in Belgium.

From forensic tests, the NZDF has established the soldier was aged 20 to 25 and about 1.7m tall. Beyond those details, nothing has been uncovered despite reviews of World War I medical reports, burial documents and enrolment records. He was buried next to another NZ soldier that they found in 2011. You can read the full story in the Herald here.

Anzac Day

As usual, Anzac Day commemorations are taking place all over New Zealand which will be well represented by Passchendaele Society members I am certain! Be sure to wear your PS Badge as a reminder that 12,500 New Zealand soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice at Passchendaele and the Western Front out of a total of 18,000 in the First World War and that this national day of remembrance is not only for those that died at Gallipoli.

Iain MacKenzie will again be present at the 11am service at the Auckland War Memorial Museum and will lay a wreath on behalf of the Passchendaele Society.

If you are in Europe on Anzac day this year or next, you may be interested to know what is planned for the Anzac Day commemorations in and around the Flanders Fields battlefields area near Ypres:-

At 6am on 25 April we start with a Dawn Service (mixed NZ and AUS) at Butte’s New British Cemetery in Zonnebeke/Passchendaele. Rendezvous point is Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 from 05.15 on. Coaches will bring the people to Polygon Wood.

After the Dawn Service there is a breakfast (free) offered by the town of Zonnebeke (not so far from the museum and Polygoon Wood – 5 minutes with the bus). Around 08.30 the bus has to leave to Mesen/Messines where there is a NZ commemoration. The Australian commemoration is at Tyne Cot the same time.

After those commemorations both countries go to the Menin Gate in Ieper/Ypres where, at 11.00 there is a special Last Post. This is followed by a short ceremony at the Belgian monument and all participants are invited for a reception (free) offered by the town of Ieper/Ypres.

Travellers can also find a lot of relevant information on our website at Learning & Resources – Interesting Blogs – The Belgians Have Not Forgotten.

Flemish soil to be used for commemorative gardens in allied countries

Canada has unveiled plans to plant a Flanders’ Field Memorial Garden using soil from the various World War I battlefields in Flanders. The idea of a garden in Canada took seed during Flemish minister-president Kris Peeters’ (CD&V) visit to Montréal last week, and it now seems a number of other Flemish allies will follow suit.

The UK, France, New Zealand and India, who also fought alongside Flanders, have launched similar initiatives. These gardens must keep the atrocities of war vivid. Judging from the very positive reactions the Flemish proposal has touched the right chord: “I see the gardens as a gift to the countries who fought on our side. They lost tens of thousands of their men,” says Bruges landscape architect Piet Blanckaert. Together with Nic Vandermarliere, former Flemish Government representative in London who is now stationed in Paris, he was the brain behind the concept. In the UK, plans are already underway to plant the first garden near Buckingham Palace in the English capital during the commemorative year of the Great War next year. Plans are also well advanced in France, where the garden will be laid out near the Dôme des Invalides in Paris.

The Flemish Government is currently in talks with New Zealand. “Relatively speaking New Zealand had the most casualties, with almost an entire generation wiped out,” explains secretary-general of the Flemish Department of Foreign Affairs, Koen Verlaeckt. A large number of bags with soil from the various battlefields and cemeteries where the fallen are buried will be transported to the various sites. The inauguration of the Flanders Field Memorial Garden in London planned for Armistice Day next year will be attended by members of both the British and Belgian Royal families.

Comments

  1. margaret klaassen says:

    My grandmother’s youngest brother, Machine Gunner Gavin Finlay was shot to pieces at Passchendaele on 12 October 1917.

  2. Delysse Storey says:

    Margaret thank you for sharing the tragic irony of those brave Gunners at Passchendaele.
    If there is more of the story you would like to share I could help you record Gavin Finlay’s extracts, no matter how little information, every detail is of the greatest importance to pay tribute of the human sacrifice at Passchendaele. Delysse Storey.

  3. Can you please tell me more about Monty Ingram’s diary

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