Newsletter #26

Posted on February 27th, 2017

Battle of Passchendaele Anniversary & Commemoration

Passchendaele Society members and the public commemorated the 99th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele on Wednesday 12th October in the World War One Hall of Memories at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

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 boys on Bellevue Spur on just one day, with many more to die over the coming days from their wounds!

Rear Adm.(RTD) Roy Clare CBE was the guest speaker this year. He gave an incredible seemingly off the cuff speech that kept us riveted throughout. We wish Roy all the best in the future in his retirement. Before departing for England, the Passchendaele Society awarded Roy Clare an Honoured Life Membership of the Passchendaele Society in recognition of his personal and extensive assistance he shown to the Passchendaele Society throughout his term as Director of the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

The post-Commemoration luncheon, organised by Ken Young, was again supported and hosted by The Auckland Officers Club and was very well attended this year with a near-full house.

Battle of Passchendaele multi-media competition

The Veterans’ Affairs ‘Why Do We Remember Passchendaele?’ competition winners were also present at the Commemoration. First & second place winners were presented with their prize by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Hon. Craig Foss MP. Mina Bixley from Tauhara College in Taupo was the overall winner and second place went to Nina Richardson from Samuel Marsden Collegiate School in Wellington. The prize on offer this year includes a trip to the 100th Commemoration in Passchendaele next year for both young ladies as part of the Veteran’s Affairs contingent of +/-15 youths who they will be taking to the Commemorations – plus a $2000 grant to Mina to go towards her further education.

Mina Bixley’s winning entry was a short film she scripted and animated herself. You can view Mina’s entry here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDXpF468e9Y.

Nina Richardson’s entry was a poem called ‘the things they did, the things they didn’t’ and can be seen here http://passchendaelesociety.org/competition/

We think you will agree that both were outstanding submissions.

Symposium announced

A Symposium titled The Myriad Faces of War: 1917 and its legacy, has just been announced in association with Massey University . This international and multidisciplinary symposium brings together an eclectic range of speakers from around the world to explore the many themes and faces from the First World War and associated events.

The Symposium will be held at Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington from April 25 to 28. The event is jointly organised by WHAM (War History Heritage Art and Memory) Research Network; Massey University; Auckland War Memorial Museum; the University of Auckland and Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Registration for Myriad Faces costs $390 before January 9, 2017, or $450 after this date.

New Zealand Memorial & Garden

The New Zealand Memorial & Garden is being created in remembrance of the more than 5,000 New Zealanders who were killed or mortally wounded in Flanders, Belgium. 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.

We are well on course with the installation of the New Zealand Memorial & Garden at the Zonnebeke Chateau. This was announced to the press lately and was widely covered in the Newspapers in particular, you can read more here http://www.nzherald.co.nz/war/news/article.cfm?c_id=359&objectid=11726841 and http://www.nzherald.co.nz/war/news/article.cfm?c_id=359&objectid=11726548

Status: the bronze discs and letters were manufactured in November, ready for precast. The basalt manufacture will commence in January. It is envisaged that all New Zealand-sourced items are to be shipped in April in 3 containers. The onsite preparation works will also commence in April.

The New Zealand Memorial & Garden will be in the Memorial Park next door to the Passchendaele Museum, in the grounds of the Zonnebeke Chateau. The German and USA gardens have already been installed and officially opened. Australia and the UK have also made a start on their gardens. Canada and Belgium are yet to start.

Important Dates

The Passchendaele Society commemorates all those that lost their lives on the Western Front.

After the Battle of the Somme in 1916 the New Zealand Division was moved back north to the Armentieres area in early October to spend the winter and to prepare for the Battle of Messines. They manned the Sailly Sector, with battalions rotating 8 days in the line and 8 days in billets in the village Sailly. Luckily the sector was a quiet one. Which may explain why those that died there are often forgotten. There is a New Zealand Memorial to the Missing at Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery in Armentieres which commemorates 47 officers and men who have no known grave. There are also more than 450 New Zealanders buried there. It is one of seven memorials in France and Belgium to those New Zealand soldiers who died on the Western Front whose graves are not known. The memorials are all in cemeteries chosen as appropriate to the fighting in which the men died. Unlike other countries who chose to erect one large National Memorial instead at one single location.

16 November saw the 100th anniversary of the first conscription ballot when the first 4,140 men’s names were pulled from the Register. The process took more than 20 hours. The ballots were held almost every month for the rest of the war. You can View a film of the first ballot at NZ History.

It is wonderful to see that many of our members are planning to visit Passchendaele next year. Our Government is yet to approve a programme for the National New Zealand Remembrance Service(s) on October 12th 2017, however as the ceremonies are aimed solely for New Zealanders, it is not envisaged to be a large event and thus, at this stage, will not be a ticketed event. There are likely to be several events (for example at Dawn and at 11am) and they are yet to decide on the location for each service, such as Tyne Cot Cemetery (where so many of our boys are buried), Polygon Wood (where there is another Memorial to the Missing) and/or at the New Zealand Memorial at ‘sGravenstafel (the successfully achieved objective for the New Zealanders on October 4th 1917 in our push for the Passchendaele Ridge). Stay abreast of developments via the WW100 website http://www.ww100.govt.nz/battle-of-passchendaele-centenary

There is however a ticketed event in Flanders on July 12th 2017 with attendees limited to 5000 on Tyne Cot and another 5000 at the Passchendaele Memorial Museum, Zonnebeke Chateau (via a big screen). There will also be an Australian service on 26th September 2017 at the Buttes New British Cemetery. This website is an excellent source to stay abreast of any developments in Zonnebeke/Passchendaele http://passchendaele2017.org/ Also the http://thebelgianshavenotforgotten.blogspot.co.nz/ is a great source of information.

Snippets

The last stop in New Zealand for the Victory Medal exhibition (commemorating the New Zealand Division on the Western Front) was at Remembrance Ridge in the Wellington Botanic Garden. Unfortunately the sculpture was damaged after a Friday night party in the park that saw litter and broken glass strewn around Remembrance Ridge. Hopefully Helen Pollock was able to repair Victory Medal before it was sent from Wellington by sea for Europe. More on this story can be read here http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11721574

Congratulations to Greg Hall, Communications Director, on his excellent five-page article in ‘The Listener’ that featured personal stories from Passchendaele Society members who had parents who served at Passchendaele. As we build towards the Centenary in 2017 we hope to see more of these stories appearing in the press. Telling the story about the events that took place there on a personal level and how it affected those here in New Zealand, sometimes for years afterwards, will be a great way of educating the public and raising awareness. If you missed the article, here it is http://www.noted.co.nz/currently/history/passchendaele-was-nothing-but-utter-desolation-just-one-shell-hole-touching-another/ Unfortunately some facts were edited after the original had been sent to the Editor, but these were not corrected before going to print, so there are a few incorrect facts (apologies to our members).

Another interesting story in the news recently was about a New Zealand woman who happened to be the 1-millionth visitor to a WW1 site in Flanders. You can read more on that story here http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11721743

I was sent a link for the Last Post being played by violin….excellent! So I wish to share it here with you https://www.youtube.com/embed/NqHx1CDRQkc?rel=0%20%20

Paul Ham’s book titles Passchendaele: Requiem for Doomed Youth (inspired by Wilfred Owen’s poem Anthem for Doomed Youth), although written by an Australian historian, is well worth a read. The story shows how ordinary men on both sides endured this constant state of siege, with a very real awareness that they were being gradually, deliberately, wiped out. Yet the men never broke: they went over the top, when ordered, again and again and again. The book tells the story of ordinary men in the grip of a political and military power struggle that determined their fate and has foreshadowed the destiny of the world for a century.