E-news #37

Posted on December 8th, 2018
September 2018                                                                                   E-DITION #37

Dear Members,

You should have all received your invitation by email to our annual commemoration at the Auckland War Memorial Museum on October 12th, upstairs in the Hall of Memories. You are advised to arrive around 10.30am and be seated by 10.45am. Floral tributes and poppies may be placed and medals may be worn, we hope to see you there! If you did not receive the invitation and would like more information, please contact the Secretary (email address below). For our Belgian friends, there will  be a wreath laying service both at the New Zealand Battlefield Memorial at s’Gravenstafel Passchendaele at 11am on October 4th and at the New Zealand Memorial & Garden in Zonnebeke   at 4pm on October 12th.

100 years ago – the Allies hit back

But first, we continue the story about the bulk of the NZDF 100 years ago in the months of August & September, the pace of events dictates a lengthy explanation, sorry! With the Germans now clearly on the defensive, the Allies looked to maintain the pressure with a series of fresh offensives. On 21 August, the British Third Army (including the New Zealand Division) attacked along a 15-km front north of Amiens, pushing back the German line and driving towards Bapaume. The New Zealand Division captured Grévillers, Loupart Wood and Biefvillers. Operating now in ground that had not been shelled, with villages, farms and forests largely intact, the New Zealanders excelled in the new conditions of open warfare.

On 25 August, the New Zealand Division attacked again in an attempt to outflank Bapaume, but the defenders held firm in the town and NZ casualties mounted. Finally, the enemy pulled out during the night of 28/29 August allowing New Zealand troops to enter Bapaume on the 29th. They then pushed east through the villages of Frémicourt and Bancourt. After clearing strong German positions on Bancourt Ridge, they advanced another 6 km before halting near Bertincourt to regroup. The Battle of Bapaume was over.

I mention all of these names as you may or may not have noticed that they are engraved on the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Samuel Forsyth, Reginald Judson and John Grant were all awarded the Victoria Cross for separate actions over nine days during the fighting around Biefvillers. All three were cited for their bravery in attacking German machine-gun posts, amongst other courageous acts. By early September, the British First, Third and Fourth armies had pushed the German forces on the Somme back to the Hindenburg Line, the point where the German Army had launched its spring offensive in March 1918!

The Hundred Days’ Offensive begins – as the Third Army followed the retreating Germans, the New Zealand Division mopped up a succession of rear-guards. They fought their way through Havrincourt Forest and Gouzeaucourt Wood before reaching Trescault Ridge. This position was part of a chain of enemy outposts and strongpoints screening the Hindenburg Line, just 4 km to the east.

On 12 September, the Third Army attempted to overwhelm the German positions along Trescault Ridge, capturing the villages of Havrincourt and Trescault and some of the high ground during the Battle of Havrincourt (12–14 September). The New Zealand Division, weakened from its efforts at Bapaume, struggled to advance on Trescault Ridge so after two days of bloody fighting the New Zealanders were relieved and moved back to Bapaume to rest.

In late September, the Allies launched a massive offensive against the Hindenburg Line, attacking simultaneously along more than half of the Western Front. On the 26th, American and French forces struck in the Meuse-Argonne region in the north-east. The next day, the British First and Third armies pushed toward the city of Cambrai, capturing 10,000 prisoners and 200 field guns. In Flanders, the British Second Army and the Belgian Army punched through German defences near Ypres on 28th September, advancing up to 9 km in 24 hours – more ground than was taken in three months of fighting at Passchendaele in 1917! Back on the Somme on the 29th, the British Fourth Army attacked the central sector of the Hindenburg Line, crossing the St Quentin Canal and penetrating German support lines.

Stunned by the scale and ferocity of the Allied offensive, the German high command implored the Kaiser to seek an immediate armistice to allow their troops to withdraw to Germany and regroup. On 4th October, the German government asked the Americans to broker a ceasefire.

Armistice Centennial

The Centennial of Armistice Day will be marked with 18,277 crosses in Auckland Domain – At 11am on 11 November this year, Aotearoa New Zealand will mark the centenary of the Armistice that ended WW1 in 1918. On that day 100 years ago, after 4 years of brutal conflict, war finally gave way to peace. Every one of the 18,277 New Zealanders who died in the Great War will be remembered with a named cross at the Auckland Domain, 11 will be marked with the Star of David.

The field will be open to the Public from October 20 to November 20, there will also be display boards with stories about the different battles plus an Information/merchandise annex, hours of operation to be confirmed. Crosses will be grouped by years according to when they died and will not be alphabetical. The Board has decided that it would be helpful to visitors that a group of Passchendaele Society Board and members will be available as ‘informal guides’ or hosts to assist with the searching and locating of a named cross, in particular for crosses located in the 1917 section. A roster of volunteers will be drawn up by Bob Davis, so do seek us out – we will be wearing a Passchendaele Society badge. We plan to have 2-3 volunteers to provide assistance to visitors on Sundays between 11am and 3pm – 21 October/28 October/4 November & 18 November. See email address below if you would like to volunteer as a host.

Standing in the middle of the Field will be a raw, emotional reminder of exactly what this country gave up during those four years. Most of the crosses will face the museum on the grassy slope below it; off to the side by a Lone Pine which will be floodlit red, will be a section for The Brothers. Its 1505 crosses will represent the 685 families who lost more than one child. Poppies will surround them, some as transfers flowing from the steps of the museum and some in the fields. It will be the first time in New Zealand such a stark memorial has been laid out. People will be welcome to drape flowers or leis on crosses, attach photographs and walk through the rows.

The National Field of Remembrance is the final, and largest, installation by the Fields of Remembrance Trust, a partnership between the Auckland RSA, National RSA and the Passchendaele Society. It is a dramatic conclusion to the work FoRT has been doing in the country’s schools and early childhood centres, where fields of named crosses have been planted, and competitions run to send high school pupils to Flanders Fields.

New Zealand will be the first in the world to mark Armistice Day, with Auckland hosting a major commemorative service at The Cenotaph in front of the Auckland War Memorial Museum on November 11 at 11am – acknowledging the time and date the guns finally fell silent. There is an expectation for a possible 40,000 attendance on the Day, so plan well how you will get there!

The Armistice centenary will also be commemorated in a National Service at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington on 11 November. The service will centre around a two-minute silence which will be observed at 11am. The commemoration will remember the service and sacrifices of those who fought, and those who stayed behind. It will also celebrate peace and look to recapture the sense of jubilation and hopefulness that swept many parts of the world at that time. The service will be complemented with a 100-gun artillery salute on Wellington’s waterfront, symbolically timed to finish at 11am when the guns fell silent 100 years ago. Later in the day, NZ Defence Force will conduct a Sunset Ceremony which will include a Last Post Ceremony. The day’s events will be live-streamed, so those unable to attend can still be involved.

Events to mark this historic moment will be held in communities across New Zealand and indeed many parts of the world. Keep an eye on ww100.govt.nz to find out about Armistice centenary events happening near you.

WW100 update

Roaring Chorus: at 11am on 11 November 1918, after four years of brutal conflict, the First World War finally came to an end. When news of the Armistice reached New Zealand it was met with widespread thanksgiving, celebration and a lot of noise. “There were songs and cheers, miscellaneous pipings and blastings, and tootings and rattlings—a roaring chorus of gladsome sounds.” 100 years on, WW100 want to recapture this energy and you are invited to join in.

When news of the Armistice finally reached New Zealand in 1918, it was met with widespread celebrations. The Wairarapa Daily Times reported: “Masterton literally went mad yesterday…whistles screeched out, bells rang, people cheered and screeched with joy, bands played, and there was a scene in Queen Street such as never before has been recorded”.

Similar scenes were witnessed in communities across the country, although in some places, celebrations were more subdued due to the deadly influenza pandemic. On the day the Armistice was signed there were around 58,000 New Zealand troops still serving overseas. At home, families rejoiced at the thought of the imminent return of loved ones, but many faced a long wait. For more information please click on: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/war/armistice-day

 How can you be involved? On Sunday 11 November 2018, a two-minute silence will be observed at 11am to acknowledge the immense loss and hardship endured throughout the war. Following this, WW100 would like you to gather whatever ‘instruments’ you have at hand and help create a roaring chorus of jubilant sound that once again celebrates peace and hope for the future. The brief is wide open, you could ring bells, sound sirens, or toot horns. You could sing a waiata, beat drums or play music. Anything goes. For more information please click on: https://ww100.govt.nz/roaring-chorus

INFLUENZA ON SS TAHITI – As the First World War entered its final months, the world fell into the grips of the deadly influenza pandemic. Some of the first New Zealand casualties were aboard the troopship SS Tahiti, which was carrying reinforcements headed for the Western Front. The first cases were reported on 26 August 1918, just as the ship left Freetown in Sierra Leone. Eventually 1,100 of the 1,217 people on board would fall ill, with 77 of them ultimately succumbing to the disease. https://ww100.govt.nz/influenza-on-the-ss-tahiti

ARMISTICE COINS AND STAMPS – The service and sacrifice made by New Zealanders in the First World War is honoured in a forthcoming issue of commemorative stamps and legal tender coins from NZ Post and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. A special Armistice Day 50 cent coin will be in circulation nationwide. A set of five Armistice stamps is also available from NZ Post. For more information visit https://stamps.nzpost.co.nz/new-zealand/2018/armistice-1918

Le Quesnoy

Upcoming commemorations for the centenary of the Le Quesnoy liberation on 4 November in France are being arranged by the NZDF, who advise to be prepared for strict security measures. Check the WW100 website in mid-October for full details. In 1918, the liberation saw New Zealand troops taking the French town back from German forces. The town was not only a strategic position as it was on higher ground but also had a significant civilian population which meant it could not have been bombarded by artillery, thus the soldiers leading the attack had to take fortified German positions without the benefit of having them softened first by the big guns. There will also be a dedication ceremony at 3.30pm on the 4th at the site of the new New Zealand Hotel & Museum.

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.

During the same period the development of a comprehensive programme for the 100th Anniversary Commemoration is being organised by the Town and people of Le Quesnoy, covering events from 2nd to the 4th of November. Central to this programme is a Conference in the Theatre De Chenes, similar in concept to that held in 2008, which with some 450 New Zealanders already registered to attend, will ensure this final commemoration of our involvement in WWI, will be well done. This in a community where the name “New Zealand” remains honoured and respected beyond living memory.

As a Twin Town in New Zealand to Le Quesnoy, Cambridge will conduct its own series of commemorative events on and around 4 November. There will be a French themed street party and an unveiling of a memorial sculpture by Fred Graham. http://www.cambridgelequesnoy.co.nz/

Finally, a Footnote from our member Herb Farrant – “members may have seen a recent presentation on “Seven Sharp” purporting to comment on the creation of a New Zealand “Hotel” in Le Quesnoy, apparently to be funded by a local authority, with a colourful Mayor. This was a disgraceful piece of inaccurate, sloppy journalism, aimed primarily at discrediting this same Mayor shortly up for re-election, which unfortunately alluded to the Zealand Memorial Museum Trust project. This unwelcome exposure was refuted by the Trust’s Chairman, Sir Don McKinnon on the next evening, but totally unhelpful at this time.”

Facebook

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, sorry I only seem to be able to share with you the stories with You Tube links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftcdQuXRSjs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hRjYFKAUds

https://dighill80.com/collections/events

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-nBvTZyNT0

www.kentonline.co.uk/canterbury/news/tragic-cricket-star-remembered-189919/

Snippets

You are cordially invited to attend the launch of The Obscure Heroes of Liberty on October 8th at 6.30pm in The Pou Maumahara/Memoria Discovery Gallery, top floor of the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Entry is via the Front Entrance (Cenotaph side). This is the story of the Belgian People who Helped Escaped Allied Soldiers during the Great War 1914-1918, based on the memoirs of New Zealand soldier Reginald Herbert Hansen and others. Few are aware of the Belgian resistance movements during World War One. The author, Dr Kenneth Baker, will make a few remarks on how he was able to identify the names of over 1000 Belgian citizens under the German occupation who helped Allied soldiers, what they did and how they did it, and some of the surprise findings. Introductions will be by The Rt. Hon. James Bolger, former Prime Minister of New Zealand. Short comments will be made by Dr Lisbeth Jacobs, Honorary Consul of Belgium; Sir Donald McKinnon, ONZ, GCVO; and Mr Bob Davis, Passchendaele Society President. A limited number of copies will be available for sale at the launch – price $45 (cash only). www.theobscureheroes.com We would like to know if any of your ancestors were escapees who were helped by Belgian citizens.

Major Peter Gilliland is escorting 10 lucky NZCF Cadets between 16-18yrs have been selected for a 2-week tour to the European battlefields to celebrate the 100th Centenary of the Great War. They will be at the Menin Gate in Ypres for the November 11th ceremony. The calibre of applicants was very high, criteria included: upholding the Core Values of NZCF – Commitment, Courage, Comradeship and Integrity, their service to their unit and community (RSA’s, Civic parades, ANZAC DAY, Poppy Day, charity work, etc), schooling, family military connections including WW1 service, Unit Commander recommendation & recommendation from an independent Senior NZCF Officer.

PS member Helen Pawsey wrote saying she saw this article on the Flanders 14-18 Facebook site: ‘Visiting Flanders Fields? If so, please let us know if you would be willing to connect with another member of our community who has not had the chance to visit and would like to ensure a loved one’s grave is visited or photographed. To participate, please leave a note indicating which cemetery or memorials you have on your itinerary where you might have time to locate a few extra gravestones. Those who have not had the chance to travel can respond to you directly with information about a family member they wish to pay their respects to at the corresponding cemetery or memorial’.