Newsletter 6

Posted on October 22nd, 2012

95th Commemorations

The Commemoration of the 95th Anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele took place on Friday 12th October at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. There was a great turnout and the Hall of Memories was filled to capacity, the Museum estimated there were 350 to 400 people (including band and choir) by the number of seats they put out.  The guests included the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs, Hon Nathan Guy, the National President of RNZRSA LtGen Don McIver, several Auckland Councillors, members of the Diplomatic Corps and local heads of the military Services.  Guest speakers this year were Professor Glyn Harper QSM and Lt. Col. Chris Powell ED. Glyn said “War is the destroyer of families and the Battle of Passchendaele destroyed more families than any other action in our military history”

Our Vice-President Chris Mullane read a very graphic and moving poem by Wilfred Owen called Dulce et Decorum Est. Listen to this reading and then watch the video that comes after (a mixture of real and movie footage), very powerful! Be warned, for the first time in many years I was reduced to uncontrollable sobs! Another one of his famous poems was called Anthem for Doomed Youth, you can hear the reading here. It too is accompanied by some very moving images.

The ceremony was followed by a Passchendaele Luncheon hosted by the Auckland Officers’ Club at the Northern Club, where Glyn Harper gave a creative presentation about some of the photos he used in his recently released book “Images of the Great War”.

World War One Centenary project announced

Auckland Council announced a commemoration project for the Centenary of World War One. A steering group will organise events for the period from 2014 to 2018.  These will include considering initiatives such as a World War One heritage trail on public parks and land.

Chair of the Parks, Recreation and Heritage Forum, Councillor Sandra Coney, says cenotaphs, memorials and war graves will be cleaned, restored and where necessary upgraded for the centenary. She says we owe a huge debt to the young men and women of Auckland who sacrificed their lives, health and prospects for the country.

RNZRSA affiliation

At their Annual General meeting in Wellington on 15 to 17 October the National Council of the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association approved the admittance of the Passchendaele Society as an Affiliated Organisation effective from 1 November.

Ron Longley, Board member responsible for Related Organisations, represented our Society at the National Council meeting. He said to the meeting that the Passchendaele Society has a lot in common with the RSA. Ron also said on behalf of our Society that we are very proud to be affiliated to the RNZRSA.

Chris Mullane was also in Wellington and briefed the National Council on the White Crosses Fields of Remembrance project. The concept was well received and at breaks during the rest of the day he was inundated by local RSA representatives from around the country wanting to discuss the project and how they can be involved. Many have asked for some of the white crosses from the 2009 Exhibition at Fort Takapuna in advance to the centenary commemorations so that they can emulate the Whangarei RSA who now enact a particularly wonderful annual commemoration event centred on the 650 white crosses they obtained from us back in November 2009.

Royal visit

A high level Belgian delegation led by HRH Prince Philippe will be coming to New Zealand towards the end of November. Four members of the Belgian Federal Government’s Organising Committee for World War One Centenary have joined this delegation and have asked to meet with Iain MacKenzie, our President of the Passchendaele Society to discuss commemoration plans.

 New Youth Ambassador

The Passchendaele Society’s first Youth Ambassador Eve Bain laid a wreath at the Wellington ceremony on our behalf on October 12th. She said she enjoyed the Commemoration thoroughly and that there was “a 5-person choir whose performances I found moving, especially when they sung ‘In Flanders Fields’, the venue was beautiful” but that the “public attendance was quite low”.

This year’s Y13 winner of the Veterans’ Affairs competition was Nathan Garry from Dunstan High School, Central Otago. He attended this year’s ceremony in Auckland and was presented with his prize by VA Minister Hon. Nathan Guy. You can read his winning entry here.

Nathan Garry has accepted the invitation to become a Youth Ambassador, he said “The opportunity to attend the Commemoration on 95th Anniversary of The Battle of Passchendaele was both an honour and a privilege.  I would like to extend my thanks to all members of the Passchendaele Society who made this competition possible.? ?I have gained from this experience in many ways. The encouragement of the competition gave me the motivation to delve into my past, through the research I gained an insight into not only the lives of those directly related to me but a better appreciation of how this tragedy affected communities around the country.”

 Portraits of Passchendaele

A special thanks to the Auckland Suburban Newspapers for their initiative in promoting the competition called “Portraits of Passchendaele”. The competition was aimed at youths under 16 to encourage young people to find out about their ancestors’ involvement in the Battle of Passchendaele. Some of their stories can be read here.

I was touched by what young Sam Molloy wrote “Hundreds of people died in minutes and yet everyone just seems to move on. To me, this is unacceptable and rather than trying to forget all destruction that occurred that day, we should embrace all the amazing people who gave their lives to this country and if there is one thing we shall not do, it is to forget them, because if we did, they would have died for nothing“.

Follow up stories before and after October 12th were also featured in several Suburban Newspapers, contributing to a massive 400 hits on our website on October 12th alone!

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