Newsletter #16

Posted on July 23rd, 2014

The Passchendaele Society’s email address has changed to asthe Society continues to grow and we look into expanding by joining social media groups such as Linked In. It is also necessary as part of our strategy in gaining online donations as per the next story. Iain MacKenzie can be contacted directly at

Also our website is continually being refreshed –  be sure to visit it often to stay abreast of any new developments and links to other interesting sites.

New Zealand Garden in the Passchendaele Memorial Park at Zonnebeke

It is with great pleasure that the Passchendaele Society’s ‘project team’ announces the launch of the New Zealand Garden Appeal.

Donations are now being sought to help fund the New Zealand Memorial Garden at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 in the village of Zonnebeke, Belgium – a place where possibly tens of thousands of New Zealanders will visit over the coming years, so something we feel all New Zealanders can contribute to! The area around the villages of Zonnebeke and Passchendaele in the province of Flanders is of immense significance to New Zealand and its involvement in World War I. A staggering 5,000 New Zealanders were killed in Flanders in the series of battles leading to the Battle of Passchendaele.

We are seeking to raise up to $450,000! This figure includes construction of permanent features here in New Zealand and shipping to Belgium. The final figure will depend on sponsorship of services and materials in New Zealand and how much work is done in Belgium for us pro-bono. Members are encouraged to think about becoming Life Members and/or to encourage others to become members.

We will also be seeking funding from Corporate Sponsorship from iconic New Zealand brand names & businesses – there will be opportunities to adequately recognise sponsors, both here and at the garden site in Belgium. Naming rights is another possibility that could be negotiated.

Donations from individuals may be made via the Telecom crowd funding website – 100% of what you donate is then given to this project thanks to the help of the Telecom Foundation. Supporters can create their own fundraising pages to directly support this initiative and become Charity Champions – I just created a Charity Champion page of my own, It was easy and 100% of donations generated from my page and fundraising efforts will go directly to this project! Or you can fundraise or promote events on your own – for example, placing a small bucket (with a lid on) at your workplace or local garden centre to collect donations; or school ‘mufti’ days with gold coin donations would be wonderful ways to fundraise for this exciting project of national significance!

We have taken on this project in response to a request from the WW100 Director to create a suitable design for a New Zealand themed garden in the grounds of the Zonnebeke Chateau, home to theMemorial Museum Passchendaele 1917. The Passchendaele Memorial Park project includes seven poppy-shaped small gardens designed to represent each nation involved, including Australia and the UK. This is an important opportunity for New Zealand to be represented with its own garden. The gardens are all in the shape of a poppy when seen from the air. Elements include three large “petals”, delineated by red planks; a central area designed for seating containing black gravel; a smaller “petal” containing an information panel; and a flagpole. Plant species will be typical for the represented nation.We published a request for expressions of interest and proposals – the winning design was submitted by Cathy Challinor of Boffa Miskell, a prominent design practice in New Zealand. You can see the winning design here.

A little re-cap of our history – the Rt, Hon. Helen Clark ONZ was in Ypres on 4th October 2007 (the 90thanniversary of the Battle of Broadseinde), when she was representing the Government of New Zealand as Prime Minister where, together with the Flemish Government, they signed the Ypres Agreement (2007).

The agreement committed New Zealand to cooperate in “…increasing broad community recognition…educating younger generations…honouring the war dead…preserving heritage material…and encouraging tourism to commemorative and historical sites in Flanders and New Zealand…”

The Agreement then inspired the Memorial Museum Passchendaele to create a travelling exhibition to New Zealand in 2009 entitled “Passchendaele: The Belgians Have Not Forgotten”.

This in turn inspired our founding Board members to form the Passchendaele Society here in New Zealand to help increase ‘broad community recognition’ of the Battles of Passchendaele!


If you are in Belgium this August, a visit to the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 is recommended as they have quite a programme planned to coincide with the anniversary of the start of WW1.

Friday night marks the start with a press conference and the official opening of the new part of the park. The poppy gardens are an essential element of the new Memorial Gardens, so we hope to be able to present our design of the New Zealand Garden on printed display boards to the public and the press to kick start our fundraising drive.

On Saturday they have several big events planned such as the ‘Living History event’ with 200 international re-enactors and a horse spectacle, musical events, guided tours in the park, the museum, the opening of the new ‘Old Contemptibles’ exhibition, etc. etc. Saturday night there will be a big concert, then on Sunday everything will be repeated again. They are expecting around 10.000 visitors over the weekend.

Fields of Remembrance Trust (FoRT)

On July 29th 2014 the New Zealand Government will officially mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War with the laying of a field of White Crosses in front of Parliament.

The question is often asked, “Why should we remember?” or “Why should we stop and think about those events that happened so long ago?”

By the end of the First World War there were very few people in New Zealand who remained unaffected. The war reached out and touched almost everyone’s life in some way or other. Children grew up in the shadow of battle, their fathers absent or lost. Women became directly involved, picking up the pieces of industry and agriculture as the men went off to fight. Some were killed while serving as nurses when their ship was sunk. Our society changed forever, nothing was ever the same again.

Our men were sent to fight in places that many had never heard of before. It was a global struggle, the power unleashed by modern war resulted in previously unimagined losses. Over 9 million soldiers died as a result of the fighting. Nearly 6 million civilians died from disease or starvation. Almost 1 million more were killed as a direct result of military operations. In all, the estimate of dead resulting from the war stands at over 16 million. And then there were the wounded, more than 21 million! Some recovered, but most were never the same again, either in body or in mind.

It was not just people who died. The old world order was also irreparably damaged. Both the Austro-Hungarian and Ottomon (Turkish) empires were destroyed. From their ashes a host of new countries emerged, in Europe and the Middle East. Russia was wracked by revolution and became the world’s first Communist state. Monarchies fell. A new world order emerged, with the United States developing a League of Nations that they then opted not to join. The consequences of many of these political changes can be heard today reverberating around the world, nearly a century later.

Sometimes the First World War feels like distant history. The war is slipping inexorably beyond the fringes of living memory and, as the Centenary of 1914–18 approaches, we have to work harder to make sure we do not forget. If we want to understand today, we need to know and remember what happened yesterday.


The Auckland Grammar Hockey Team was in Europe during their Easter break and chose to be present at the commemorations at Messines on 25th April 2015 – they were spotted wearing their Passchendaele Society badges at the ceremony! This is from their Blog :- An early start faced the tour squad, as they were up at 4am for the bus ride to Passchendale where we attended a dawn service at Butte’s Cemetery. The service was incredibly moving, giving the squad a sense of how great the loss of life really was, with graves of boys only a year or 2 older scattered around the cemetery. After a small breakfast the next stop was Messines Ridge for a service solely for New Zealanders. The team all placed poppies at the monument then headed to the town of Ypres. Here a service was held at the Menin Gate, with all the names of allied soldiers who died in the battles at Flanders Field. It was difficult to comprehend such a massive loss of life, and made me in particular thankful for what they did to protect the country we live in today. A visit to the Passchendale Memorial Museum completed the experience.

Student Horizons is happy to report that they are organising tours next year for the Auckland Diocesan School for Girls, who wish to visit Passchendaele with their hockey tour next April 2015. They are also arranging a tour for Wairoa College, who are taking 32 rugby players to Europe next September & October and have included Passchendaele on their tour.

Plays & Concerts & Exhibitions

The WW1 play titled Bill Massey’s Tourists is being performed July 24th, 25th and 26th at the Whitireia Performance Centre in Wellington, visit to book. It is a play where Jan Bolwell tells the story of her Grandfather’s war on the Western Front, she particularly keen to share the play and discuss its contents with senior secondary school students. It is a solo play and Jan Bolwell plays herself as adolescent and adult, her grandfather both young and old, his best mate Cyril, and a woman from the New Zealand Patriotic Society ‘at first her grandfather is reluctant to talk about the war but gradually Jan coaxes him to reveal what actually happened to him and his mates in the trenches of France and Belgium.’

As part of the nationwide celebration of Family History Month in August 2014 and to mark the commemoration of World War One, the West Auckland Research Centre team is staging the “WWI at home : Researching West Auckland Families” exhibition (1 Aug – 19 Sept) in the J T Diamond Room & Gallery and displays in the West Auckland Research Centre on level 2 and level 1 of the Waitakere Central Library in Henderson. The focus of the exhibition is to use examples of WWI West Auckland families to educate visitors about the range of print and online resources available to research and educate themselves about their World War One family histories.

Those in Greater Auckland may well be interested in the Massed Bands Concert ‘In War & Peace at the Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna on Sunday 31st August 2014 at 2.30pm. The Concert will feature the RNZ Navy, RNZ Artillery & RNZ Air Force (Auckland) Bands, together with the Auckland Police Pipe Band, ‘To Honour Those Who Have Served New Zealand – an afternoon of glorious military music for all the family’. The Concert also features a commemorative segment including Guest Speaker Andrew Matheson, Director of WW100. Tickets are available from the Bruce Mason Box Office or

I recently enjoyed seeing the play Once on Chunuk Bair at the Maidment Theatre in Auckland. The story is of course based in Gallipoli rather than on the Western Front, however it did give the audience a wonderful insight into the conditions they were living in, such as the realities of living with dysentery & lice and completed with loud explosions, gun shots and coarse language! It ran for 4 weeks and showed to full houses most nights and even attracted bus-loads of out-of-towners. Hopefully a reputable theatre company will produce a similar play about Passchendaele. In particular

I was surprised at the level of interest and the wide range in age group of the audience!

Prime TV is currently showing on Sunday a documentary series called War News – imagine if we had television in 1914-18 and what would they have screened directly into New Zealand’s homes! The gripping 5 part series tells the story of the New Zealanders who went to war and is cleverly reported on ‘live’ by a news presenter and reporters in the field as they interview those in high command right down to the ordinary soldier on the ground awaiting ‘zero hour’ (or I should say in the mud). Hopefully you all saw the episode on July 6th about the disastrous attack made by the New Zealanders on Bellevue Spur on 12th October 1917?  If you missed the episode I am not sure if Prime offers ‘TV on Demand’, sorry. But if I find out more I will certainly place a link on a future E-News for you.

August Watershed – one of our Australian PS members Karl Wootton has sent us the following information which may be of interest to some of you:- The historical musical called August Watershed tells the story of the first month of the first World War 1914. It will be available on a ‘pay per view’ basis as a 16 episode video production at around $1 per episode, but I am not sure how this is done as I did not find any information about this (possibly the link to each episode will become available online soon.) Here is the link to the trailer:-

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