E-news #32

Posted on January 18th, 2018

The Battle of Broodseinde on 4th October & The First Battle of Passchendaele on 12th

As with our previous E-news’, we have been following in the footsteps of our boys during their campaign on the Western Front, 100 years ago.

On 25 September 1917, the New Zealand Division departed the Lumbres area (west of St Omer) where they had been training reinforcements and preparing for the October battles around Passchendaele. The month’s rest had worked wonders and throughout there was a feeling of delight at the prospect of once more making an attempt to break the enemy lines.

It took them 4 days to walk the 78kms north into Belgium dressed in full kit. You often read about the soldiers complaining of having to march in hob-nailed boots on the slippery cobblestone roads. On arrival in Belgium, most of our soldiers spent time underground under a little viallege called Wieltje. At one time, there were more soldiers underground than above it. The jumping off point for the October 4th battle was just north-east of Wieltje.

The New Zealand Division took part in the Battle of Broodseinde on 4 October 1917, tasked with seizing part of the Broodseinde Ridge called Gravenstafel Spur. On that day, the New Zealand soldiers overwhelmed German forward positions, captured 1100 prisoners and helped to extend the frontline 1000 metres eastwards. This was achieved at a cost of 1700 NZ casualties, including 350 deaths. One of them was Sergeant Dave Gallaher (43), Captain of the All Black Originals. Mortally wounded, he made it to the Field Dressing Station behind the lines in Poperinghe where he died, he is buried in Nine Elms Cemetery.

The British high command mistakenly concluded that the relative ease with which the Broodseinde Ridge had been won meant enemy resistance was faltering. It resolved to make a further push for Passchendaele Ridge on 12 October. However, by this time heavy rain had turned the terrain of Flanders into a muddy bog, rendering artillery support ineffective. The batteries of canons were not completely in position; those that made it forward were then set up in soft mud; ammunition remained limited. The gunners were unable to deliver an effective creeping barrage when zero hour arrived, at 5.25 a.m. Although opening with an impressive roar, this soon became ragged or petered out. Worse, many of the shells at first fell among the waiting infantry.

New Zealand soldiers advanced up the Bellevue Spur only to find the enemy’s concrete pillboxes and lines of barbed wire still largely intact. The toll was horrendous. There were about 2700 New Zealand casualties. They included about 950 men who were either dead or mortally wounded – 846 men are officially listed as dying on 12 October and the rest succumbed to their wounds in field ambulances and hospitals behind the lines in Belgium, France and the UK, over the coming days and weeks. For badly wounded soldiers lying in the mud, the aftermath of the battle was a private hell; many died before they could be rescued. Extensive efforts were made to get them out over the next two days, assisted by an informal truce that developed as Germans refrained from firing on stretcher parties.

12 October is undoubtedly, in terms of lives lost in a single day, the blackest day in New Zealand’s history. The survivors of the New Zealand Division stayed in Flanders until finally being relieved on 18 October by members of the Canadian Corps. At a cost of 16,000 casualties, the Canadians managed to capture Passchendaele Ridge on 10 November 1917.

Passchendaele Society’s 100th Commemoration

The moment has arrived after many years of planning and building towards this significant event. Here is a recap on what is planned in Auckland for 12 October 2017 by the Passchendaele Society:

  • 10am – Passchendaele Field of Remembrance Service. Auckland Domain.
  • 11am – Passchendaele Centennial Commemoration. Auckland War Memorial Museum (WWI Hall of Memories, members are advised to be seated by 10.30am). After the commemoration, all attendees are invited for complimentary light refreshments served in the Events Centre upstairs at the Museum (12.15pm until 1.15pm).
  • Formal dinner at the Northern Club, hosted by the Auckland Officer’s Club – bookings and payment by October 2nd please to secretary@passchendaelesociety.org

For other events planned throughout the country in October , please see the previous E-News. Reminder – public are invited to the Battle of Broodseinde (4 October 1917) day of commemoration at Eden Park on 4 October, culminating in a sunset service at 6.30pm.

Passchendaele Centennial Public Events around Ieper (Ypres) Belgium

The following is a comprehensive list of events in and around Ypres over the following weeks. It is an unofficial list created with the help of new member Jane Hanan (thank you very much), hopefully I have remembered everything.

Wednesday 4th October

  • 2.30pm: New Zealand Remembrance Service, Nine Elms British Cemetery, Poperinge. Featuring the New Zealand Veterans Band and a tribute to All Black Captain Sergeant Dave Gallaher.
  • 4pm: New Zealand Service of Commemoration, Battle of Broodseinde, New Zealand Memorial at ‘s Gravenstafel. Wreath laying by Passchendaele Society Board Member Karen Morris. Featuring the New Zealand Veterans Band. The Service will conclude with a march to the Old Cheese Factory carpark (beneath Bellevue Spur).
  • 8pm: Menin Gate Last Post, Ieper. New Zealand Veterans Band.

Friday 6th October

  • 7pm: Concert, New Zealand Veterans band, Memorial Museum Passchendaele, Zonnebeke. Order your tickets at newzealandpilgrimage@gmail.com Adults €5, children aged 15 and under free.

Saturday 7th October

  • 2pm: Concert New Zealand Veterans Band on Market Place in Ieper.

Monday 9th October

  • 6.45am: Dawn Blessing of our Memorial & Garden (time to be confirmed). This is a traditional Maori blessing ceremony led by Toi Maori. Sunrise is at 8.01am

Wednesday 11th October

  • 8.30am: Messines guided Battlefield Walk (3 hours). Meet at New Zealand Memorial, Nieuwzeelandstraat, Mesen (Messines) at 8.15am. Adults €10, children aged 15 and under free. Reservations by email to: newzealandpilgrimage@gmail.com
  • 4.30pm: Zonnebeke Council Chamber. Special council meeting, all New Zealanders in the region are invited to attend.
  • 6.30pm: Special New Zealand specific ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres. “From the Uttermost Ends of the Earth”. Includes a Waka arriving on the moat which surrounds this beautifully restored medieval town, with Maori performers and a Haka.
  • 8pm: Last Post ceremony, Menin Gate, Ieper (Ypres).

Thursday 12th October

  • 9.30am: There will be shuttle busses from Ieper to Bellewaerde, Frezenbergstraat, Zonnebeke. Those with cars can park in Parking C at Bellewaerde (a Fun Park). Full security screening, followed by shuttle busses to Tyne Cot Cemetery. The whole day there will be busses from Parking C to Tyne Cot in a loop around Polygon Wood and to the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 in Zonnebeke. More details please see: http://ww100.govt.nz/passchendaele
  • 11am: New Zealand Service of Commemoration, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Passchendaele. HRH Princess Astrid, sister of King Philippe of Belgium will attend the event.
  • 12.30pm: BBQ lunch for 500 at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele, Zonnebeke. Book online via www.passchendaele.be/tickets
  • 2pm: Pick up name discs from the tent at the end of the parking at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele for those involved in the Wood of Peace ceremony.
  • 3pm: Opening of New Zealand Memorial & Garden in the park of the Memorial Museum Passchendaele in Zonnebeke.
  • 4pm: Wood of Peace tree dedication ceremony, Polygon Wood.
  • 7.15pm: Sunset Service, Buttes New British Cemetery, Polygon Wood. Please take shuttle bus from memorial Museum Passchendaele, Zonnebeke.

Friday 13th October

  • 8.30am: Messines guided Battlefield Walk (3 hours). Meet at New Zealand Memorial, Nieuwzeelandstraat, Mesen (Messines) at 8.15am. Adults €10, children aged 15 and under free. Reservations by email to: newzealandpilgrimage@gmail.com
  • 1.30pm: Guided tour of New Zealand Passchendaele Battlefield and area by coach, includes visit to Memorial Museum Passchendaele in Zonnebeke. Adults €50, children aged 15 and under free. Reservations by email to: newzealandpilgrimage@gmail.com
  • 8pm: Gone West Concert with Filip Kowlier (Flemish singer/songwriter).

Saturday 14th October

Friday 20th October

  • 10am: Service of Remembrance dedicated to Sister Elise Margaret Kemp, believed to be the only New Zealand born nurse killed by enemy action on the Western Front. The service will take place at her grave site at the Godewaersvelde British Cemetery (France).

To visit the Zonnebeke Church Dugout bookings are required: www.passchendaele.be/tickets

Journey’s End is a play by R.C. Sherriff and is performed at 3pm daily except for Mondays and at 7pm on Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday. Please see: http://www.meshtheatre.com/journeysend.html

Belgian Memorial at Pukeahu in Wellington

Last week the Belgian Memorial had a blessing ceremony where Maori stones were placed in the ground of the memorial site. The memorial will be officially opened on 12 October as part of the national commemoration. The memorial design is of a laurel memorial wreath, which symbolises the worldwide impact of the First World War and the grief and loss suffered by all sides, around the world. Artists Nico Van Stichel and Lut VandeBos created the sculpture as a symbol of hope for future generations and hope for a peaceful existence between all peoples, regardless of origin, religious convictions or any other differences.

For further information see http://www.mch.govt.nz/memorial-recognise-bonds-war

Media

We are thrilled that the Battle of Passchendaele (including the Battle of Broodseinde and the Battle of Belle Vue Spur) are receiving considerable media coverage as we lead up to the anniversary of New Zealand’s worst day in military history.

This is a list of the confirmed Passchendaele commemoration planned media to date. Please note that in all cases, media can change, dates can move, stories can be pulled depending on other breaking news of the day.

  • RNZ Nine to Noon (Wed 27th September) at 11.15am. Our Vice-President Chris Mullane talked to Kathryn Ryan about the story of the Poppies to Pohutukawa song, and Passchendaele in general. To listen please click on: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/201860122/poppies-and-pohutukawa
  • Listener magazine. Multi-page ‘Shelf Life’ Q+A feature by Clare de Lore about Chris Mullane’s ‘Poppies to Pohutukawa’ song. Chris will be interviewed at 1.30pm, 3 October.
  • NZ Herald Weekend Passchendaele Remembered, massed bands event, will be profiled in Agenda (either 7th or 14th Oct).
  • RNZ/Concert Bob Davis and Col. Wolfendale 30-minute LIVE interview ex Wellington studio on Eva Radich’s Upbeat show about massed bands event Friday 6th
  • Newsroom – (leading online news site) reporter Alexia Russell interview with Greg Hall confirmed 10am 2 Oct.
  • RNZ Kim Hill interview with Arthur Young. This will be a pre-recorded interview on 6th October ex Auckland Studio, to play 7 Oct TBC.
  • NZ Herald – Saturday edition (7 Oct) feature story on New Zealand Memorial & Garden. Board member Greg Hall will be interviewed for this.

Snippets

Bob Davis, our Honourable Secretary has just been appointed as President of the International Military Music Society. A prestigious honour indeed. Well done Bob. We honour your world status.

The New Zealand Branch of The International Military Music Society (IMMS) in staging a Grand Massed Bands Concert entitled Passchendaele Remembered, at the Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna on Sunday 15th October 2017 at 2.30pm, featuring the RNZ Navy Band, the RNZ Artillery Band, the RNZ Air Force Base Auckland Band, the Auckland Police Pipe Band, and the NZ Police Auckland Choir.  Tickets are $28 for adults or $24 for seniors and students. Tickets are available at: www.ticketmaster.co.nz; Tel: 0800 111999; or buy directly at their Box office.

We just received some professional photos of the finished New Zealand Memorial & Garden. To view the photos, see our updated webpage: www.passchendaelesociety.org/memorial-garden/

We often receive correspondence on various ways that 12 October is being remembered. There are quite a variety of commemorations taking place and it is impossible to list them all, including many from young New Zealanders who are only just learning now about the tragedies that took place 100 years ago. One such example is by Maria Rodgers, a landscape architect and as a student she designed a memorial to ‘New Zealand’s Darkest Day’. Her great uncle Alexander Cecil Birss was killed on 12 October 1917 and as her project was to design a memorial space on the land east of the National War Memorial Carillon, she decided to design this memorial in honour of his memory. To view her design, visit http://cargocollective.com/mariarodgers/Memorial-to-12-October-1917

Here is another example of a student’s Passchendaele-inspired dress installed in the National War Memorial ahead of WOW: http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/fashion/96942215/students-passchendaeleinspired-dress-installed-in-the-national-war-memorial-ahead-of-wow

Robert Finlay has written a centennial biography about the life of Donald McNaughton Stuart Finch 32649 who was killed in action on 12th October during the First Battle of Passchendaele. Please email findlayRM@xtra.co.nz if you would like a copy.

The Fields of Remembrance Trust have produced a Battle of Broodseinde commemorative pin, this is available through the FoRT website http://www.fieldsofremembrance.org.nz/ . The Battle of Passchendaele commemorative pin is also available at ANZ Bank branches for $10.

To commemorate the Passchendaele Centennial the Devonport RSA WWI Field of Remembrance was installed on 1 October. The site is on the approaches to the Devonport Library near the Devonport War Memorial. The Field will be there until Sunday, 15 October.

Next-of-kin and other relatives of deceased servicemen and women wearing their relative’s medals has become common at commemoration services since the 1990s. The wearing of deceased relatives’ medals is appropriate on specific occasions, please see E-News # 31 for more details on how/when to wear these http://passchendaelesociety.org/newsletters/

Toitu Otago Settlers’ Museum is hosting the final leg of the Belgians Have Not Forgotten exhibition in October & November. Toitu is also staging a complementary exhibition The Women’s War: patriotism, service and dissent in their temporary exhibition gallery. You may also be interested to view their documentary Journey of the Otagos, which includes a specific episode on Passchendaele called The Darkest Days https://youtu.be/3X6xX6_AgNE