E-news #36

Posted on July 18th, 2018

Dear Members,

The new Board has now settled in and we are proud to announce that the Passchendaele Society will continue as before, including the annual commemoration at the Auckland War Memorial Museum on October 12th, possibly in slightly amended format. Thank you to the high number of members who have paid their annual subscription. In fact, we have several new members, welcome! To the remaining members, this is a gentle reminder that we would greatly appreciate your ongoing support.

The German Spring Offensive (part two) – 100 years ago

But first, we continue the story about the bulk of the NZDF 100 years ago……hopefully YOUR ancestor was one of the lucky ones that survived the horrors of Passchendaele: The tide had finally turned – in 1918, a series of major German and Allied offensives broke the stalemate of trench warfare on the Western Front, resulting in the near-collapse of the German Army and the end of the fighting before the end of the year.

In Flanders, the German Offensive called Operation Georgette pushed the British out of Passchendaele and Messines, territory won at such great cost the previous year, but failed to capture the important Hazebrouck rail hub. New Zealand units were involved here too, helping stop the German advance in the Battle of the Lys (9 – 29 April) on the southern Belgian border. Gunners of the New Zealand Field Artillery’s 2nd (Army) Brigade fought valiantly to support defending troops near Messines. Lieutenant-General Sir Alexander Godley’s XXII Corps were also involved, these included the Mounted Rifles, Cyclist Corps and Entrenching troops. They filled crucial gaps in the line south-east of Ypres, fighting as de facto infantrymen at ‘Shrewsbury Forest’ (near Hill 60), Méteren, Mount Kemmel, Vierstraat Road and Hill 44 before being withdrawn. At Méteren, 210 men of the 2nd New Zealand Entrenching Battalion were taken prisoner when the enemy got behind them — the largest group captured during the whole campaign.

The bulk of the New Zealand Division remained in the Ancre Valley on the Somme in France until it was relieved in early June 1918. After a period in reserve, the Division went back into the line on July 2nd, occupying trenches in front of Hébuterne and, further north, facing Rossignol Wood. They spent the next few weeks carrying out aggressive patrolling and fighting small actions to improve their tactical position. The New Zealanders so harassed their opponents that the Germans eventually abandoned Rossignol Wood.

The final German offensive on the Somme was in July 1918. Each advance only stretched their dwindling resources. German factories, starved of materials by the Allied naval blockade, struggled to replace the weapons and equipment that had been lost. Between March and July, the German Army lost a million men killed or wounded, including many irreplaceable experienced and elite soldiers. In desperation, the German authorities began sending 17-year-old conscripts to the front.

The Allies were also close to exhausting their available manpower, but had the reassurance of growing American support as the US presence on the front expanded. Unlike the Germans, they were also able to keep increasing the firepower of their artillery and infantry. The British Tank Corps, formed in July 1917, continued to expand, as did the Royal Air Force (formed by amalgamating the previous air services in April 1918) and the French Aéronautique Militaire. The Germans could not match this combination of forces.

Godley’s XXII Corps, redeployed to the Champagne region in northern France, took part in operations attached to the French Fifth Army. New Zealand cyclists distinguished themselves by capturing the village of Marfaux on 22 July. This Allied counter-thrust indicated that Ludendorff had lost the initiative, a perception that would soon be confirmed in dramatic fashion as the front-line shifted rapidly eastwards in August-September 1918…..more on that in the next E-News.

Armistice Centennial

Plans for the Armistice centennial commemorations at the Auckland War Memorial Museum organised by FORT (Fields of Remembrance Trust) have been given to us for circulation, the following are the tentative plans:

10th October: Blessing of the two fields prior to the installation of the crosses, time to be confirmed.

12th October: 100th Anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Passchendaele in the Hall of Memories in the Auckland War Memorial Museum at 11am.

12th October: Installation of the 18,277 named crosses will begin (no public access, sorry). This is envisaged to take until the 18th. The fields will be spectacularly lit by 26 Light Boxes around the perimeter.

19th October: Launch Function/AWMM (6.30pm – 9.30pm) for invited guests. Presentation of Certificates of Appreciation.

20th October: Fields of Remembrance opens to the public (10am – 10pm daily)

11th November: Armistice Day Memorial Service at the Cenotaph at the AWMM (11am – 12.15pm)

21st – 23rd November: Fields will be uplifted and lighting removed.

New Zealand Memorial & Garden in Zonnebeke

It is with great pride that we can announce that the project for the New Zealand Memorial & Garden in Zonnebeke, Belgium has come to a conclusion and is now in the hands of the Passchendaele Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 who are responsible for the maintenance of the garden. There are now 6 national gardens completed in the Memorial Park next door to the museum – of note, the New Zealand memorial was the only project not funded by a Government!

We are happy to report that the M&G project was delivered on time and significantly under budget. The total value to the Passchendaele Society was $411,593, plus land value. This was achieved with an initial Passchendaele Society grant of $7500 and Lotteries funding of $404,113. We wish to sincerely thank the Lotteries Commission for supporting the Passchendaele Society financially with this project. We also wish to thank the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 for their generosity and on-going upkeep of New Zealand’s Memorial & Garden.

We will continue to update the Memorial & Garden page on our website with any news and/or commemorations that will take place there http://passchendaelesociety.org/memorial-garden

Le Quesnoy

Herb Farrant informs us on the ongoing progress in Le Quesnoy:

Following the acquisition of the Gendarmerie property in Le Quesnoy in early January the New Zealand Memorial Museum Trust has been working towards a comprehensive nation-wide fund raising campaign to advance its Memorial Museum concept. This exercise has been somewhat frustrated whilst the requirements as a registered charity, to achieve a tax deductability status, has been impeded due to current legislation only applying to the projects delivered within New Zealand. Hence access to pledged funds has been stalled. To achieve a change in domestic legislation qualifying criteria, serious dialogue has been required with Government. This through the input of Helen Clark, Sir Don McKinnon & Sir Lockwood Smith has taken time but is about to be achieved. As a result, the programme to achieve a logical scope of works on site available for an appropriate dedication ceremony on the 100th Anniversary Commemorations on 4 November 2018, remains under some pressure. However, what is contemplated along with a Commemorations Programme, under development by the Civic authorities over the 2nd to 4th November still looks achievable. Full details of that programme and what might be available to some 400 New Zealanders scheduled to attend should be known in late July, early August”.

The museum in Le Quesnoy will exhibit interactive and precious historic collections, focusing on New Zealand’s military involvement in Europe and our significant contributions in both World Wars: – a way of telling New Zealand soldiers’ stories. Photographs from the liberation of Le Quesnoy can be seen here https://nzwarmemorialmuseum.co.nz/story#photos The new venue will act as a focal point for New Zealand visitors to the Western Front.

Herb Farrant has also informed us on the commemorations program in Cambridge:

As a Twin Town in New Zealand to Le Quesnoy, Cambridge is intent on its own series of commemorative events on 4th November. This centred around a French themed street party and most notably the unveiling of a memorial sculpture by local identity Fred Graham. Further members of the Twin Town, Cambridge-Le Quesnoy Friendship Association will be in France as will be the Cambridge Brass Band to add colour and support to this Anniversary, so special to both communities”. You can keep up to date with plans here: http://www.cambridgelequesnoy.co.nz/ or via FB https://www.facebook.com/CambridgeLeQuesnoy

Facebook

Our new Board Member Dylan Woodhouse is regularly posting on our Passchendaele Society Facebook page. This is proving a successful way of informing the Public about the Battle of Passchendaele, 2929 people are reached on average per post. If you are a FB member, please click on Follow to help spread the word further into our community.

For those that do not have Facebook, here are a few of the recent postings:

A story about the NZ-ers captured at Meteren: http://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/news/features/102681455/Captured-at-Meteren-the-only-Kiwi-surrender-in-World-War-I

This soldier actually describes what it was like flighting at Passchendaele, albeit in August for the British http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-471468/Last-survivor-lives-horrors-Passchendaele.html

Passchendaele in 360° is interesting to see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFSjBzb8qeY

Measuring the ANZACS has been featured several times as we endeavour to tell personal stories about individual soldiers and nurses: https://www.measuringtheanzacs.org/#/mark?subject_set_id=583c5c51623465000bdf1600

The All Black Sevens recently paid their respects in Belgium: http://www.allblacks.com/Video/Viewer/30148/all-blacks-sevens-pay-their-respect-in-belgium

Dylan also made a new “Stand to” video about Rifleman Lane Cunliffe in the Great War. To watch this very interesting piece please visit: https://youtu.be/qZ8yMB4YvEE or  https://www.facebook.com/399232890220175/videos/1408829229260531/

Snippets

Peter Jackson’s The Quinn’s Post Trench Experience opened in April in the Dominion Museum Building at the Pukeahu National War Memorial in Wellington. Live moment to moment, as the ANZAC troops did in the trenches at Gallipoli, only a bomb’s throw away from the Turks. In this unique re-creation of Quinn’s Post, visitors experience the noise, the explosions, the stench, the confined environment those men had to deal with. To read more click on: https://mailchi.mp/f0a0d3556a1b/the-trench-sir-peter-jackson-1472913?e=a86932073a

A lovely new ANZAC memorial has opened in Ploegsteert (Plugstreet) in Belgium. And the 600,000 small clay sculptures have now been installed at Palingbeek. The art work is called: “Coming World Remember Me”, see the video of the impressive finished product: http://www.comingworldrememberme.be/en/end

New Zealanders went to monumental lengths to remember those who served and died in the First World War. To read more please click on: http://ww100.cmail20.com/t/ViewEmail/y/CE10F4653025A49C/6A8291424FE3C55520B193FBA00ED1DB

Highly recommended by the PS Board members is to have a look at: www.greatwarexhibition.nz/event/passchendaele-the-elusive-familiarity-of-war-by-dean-ogorman/

The Dig at Hill 80 is progressing well, they are excavating an endangered WW1 Battlefield in Flanders with the help of crowd-funding https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/451007212/hohe-80-project-whitesheet-2018 They have now recovered in excess of 100 soldiers and expect to find more. So far, they have identified British, German and French soldiers.

Also of great interest is the recent newsletter from the Last Post Association in Ieper (Ypres). To have a good read please click on the following link: http://imailer.dmenp.be/Publiek/GetNieuwsbrief.aspx?mailingid=12032&persoonid=378256&check=BB5D46CB02A2FA5F705AAD42DCA9FF10BDB09935

We also welcome ‘stories’ of members’ ancestors that we can post on our own website.