E-news #40

Posted on September 6th, 2019

June 2019                                                                                                            E-DITION #40

Dear Members,

I recently heard a powerful speech which I would like to share with you, as I share his sentiments when it comes to those who died in Flanders Fields: “…we are here to say goodbye to our fellow men & women who set aside their differences to fight together and die together, so that others might live. Everyone in the world owes them a debt that can never be repaid. It is our duty, and honour, to keep them alive in memory for those who come after us and those who come after them, for as long as men draw breath….” – Jon Snow, GOT.

News just in: our New Zealand Memorial & Garden – Nga Pua Mahara has made the shortlist of finalists in the Resene New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architecture Awards 2019 Institutional Category. The winner will be announced at the Awards Ceremony in Christchurch on November 8th. Congratulations to all who helped make it happen and it is fantastic news that their efforts have been recognised and acknowledged here in New Zealand! Visit https://nzila.co.nz/awards/2019-shortlisted-award-entries to view other finalists.

100 years ago

In Belgium 100 years ago, the decision to fully reconstruct the destroyed town of Ypres (Ieper) was taken. Winston Churchill had wanted to keep the ruins as a permanent cemetery/memorial for all the British who lost their life at the Belgian front and have a more modern city built nearby. However, the local people wanted their homes to be rebuilt. The spring of 1919 saw lots of small prefabricated huts put up to house the returning people to Ypres.

Returning farmers began the enormous task of trying to salvage what they could of their farms. Ploughing the ravaged fields could be extremely hazardous due to unexploded shells and collapsing underground tunnels. It would take some years to clear the land of abandoned military equipment, ammunition and bodies.

A neglected area of study is the military clearance of the battlefield and burial, in particular the Post-war exhumation. The Graves Registration Commission was formed in March 1915 and the Imperial War Graves Commission came into being in May 1917. They later became known as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Their massive task was to exhume bodies, identify them and gather them together into orderly cemeteries. The sheer physical difficulties of the work was significant, 9 men were required per exhumation per day to exhume each body, transport it to the cemetery and re-inter it. Manpower rapidly became a problem – with demobilisation, volunteers began to disappear. Most of the actual work was done by troops freshly drafted from England, men who had not previously been on the Western Front. You can learn here https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/burial-clearance-and-burial/

In July 1919 the British & Belgian Governments decided to construct a large memorial called the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing. The decisions made early in peace time have resulted in Ypres becoming a very busy WWI Pilgrimage town in Belgium. Every day the Last Post is sounded under the Menin Gate, the moving ceremony starts at 8pm.


With the mass cancellation of the smaller ANZAC Day services around Auckland in particular, numbers were expected to swell at the officially sanctioned events such as the Hibiscus Coast Community RSA, Browns Bay and the Cenotaph at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. In contrary, numbers were about the same, as many of the smaller events decided to go ahead with their usual services anyway, but in most cases not their usual parades, against the advice of the Police!  Heavy security measures may also have deterred some people.

Chris Mullane ran a commemoration in Devonport https://devonportflagstaff.co.nz/devonport-stands-tall-with-independent-anzac-service/ , Chris is the Passchendaele Society’s former Vice-President. Orewa held an impromptu commemoration at Remembrance Reserve with around 80 attendees, https://localmatters.co.nz/news/32457-orewa-holds-impromptu-anzac-day-gathering.html  Around 20 people gathered at dawn on Manly Beach https://localmatters.co.nz/news/32454-beach-service-held-at-dawn.html . And Upper Waiwera saw around 200 attend their service https://localmatters.co.nz/news/32451-upper-waiwera-anzac-service-goes-ahead.html . The overall feeling is that the community spirit is alive and well and the locals prefer to commemorate the fallen in their own communities rather than attend the larger more formal events.

Pou Maumahara

In Belgium on ANZAC Day, the official unveiling ceremony of the Pou Maumahara (Maori Memorial Carving) took place at the Passchendaele Memorial Museum 1917 in Zonnebeke. The magnificent carving sits proudly near the carpark, one side looks out in the direction of the jumping off line for the Passchendaele campaign, the other side looks towards our New Zealand Memorial & Garden and New Zealand. The Pou was created from one ancient 4,500-year-old swamp Kauri log weighing 17 tonnes! The finished carving is 8 metres high and weighs 6 tonnes and is erected on a large concrete plinth. It was carved over a four-year period by master carvers from the New Zealand M?ori Arts and Crafts Institute at Te Puia in Rotorua. This is the first and only Maori memorial in Europe (including Gallipoli). You can read more in these four articles https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12225143 and https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/112144971/letters-from-the-trenches-return-to-passchendaele-for-a-very-personal-anzac-tribute



New Patron

The Passchendaele Society’s Board is thrilled to welcome Wayne “Buck” Shelford MBE as our new Patron, which was formalised at the AGM. He and his wife Joanne have several personal connections to Flanders, having lost 14 relatives during WW1.

In presenting Buck Shelford’s nomination for Patron to the Annual General Meeting, our President Bob Davis acknowledged that we had been honoured to have the former Prime Minister, Helen Clark, as our Patron since the Society was formed in 2011.  It was around the elements of the Concord which she signed with the Flemish Government in 2007 that our Objectives were based. However, in recent years she had spent far more time overseas than at home and had graciously acknowledged that she had not been able to give the Society the time she would wish.  She had, however, expressed her wish to maintain her contact with the Society and to be kept informed of our activities.

The AGM also saw the election of the following Board members: Bob Davis, President & Hon. Secretary; Lode Notredame – Vice-President; Mike Hartley – Treasurer; and Board members Sandi Notredame, Dylan Woodhouse, Karen Morris & Bill MacGregor. Iain MacKenzie as the immediate Past-President has resigned, as has Major John Liddell, the XO 3/6 Battalion 1RNZIR representaative.

Brothers in Arms

The Brothers in Arms Memorial Project (BIAMP) began with the unearthing in the village of Zonnebeke by a Belgian publican, Johan Vandewalle, of five soldiers all of whom were Australian. All were mortally wounded in the Battle of Polygon Wood in October 1917. Although Johan had no idea who the soldiers were or that they were Australian, there was one soldier whose fate impacted so deeply upon him that it changed his life forever.

The BIAMP project began as a tribute to Australian brothers who served in WWI but New Zealand’s ANZACs will also be rightfully recognised as integral to that term. Since its first years the project now encompasses brothers from all nations involved, including Germany. To read more about this very impressive project please click on: www.brothersinarmsmemorial.org

Other Snippets

June 7th 2019 is the 102nd anniversary of the Battle of Messines. A recap on the history – while the New Zealanders defended the area just north of Armentieres, hard-working British and Australian tunnellers were digging and preparing 24 massive mines under the German-lines, under the Messines Ridge. Some of the mines were laid and prepared months in advance, but every day the lines had to be checked and the explosives kept dry. One mine was discovered by the Germans so they mounted a counter-mining attack. Another mine was abandoned due to a tunnel collapse and four under the Ploegsteert Wood were not detonated on 7th June as they were no longer under the German frontline – one of these exploded after being struck by lightning in 1955! The battle began at 3.10am on June 7th 1917 with the explosion of 19 massive mines, the simultaneous explosions were heard across Europe and even rattled the teacups in Downing Street! The New Zealanders paid a heavy price for success: by the time the New Zealand Division was withdrawn on 9th June, it had suffered 3700 casualties, 700 of them fatal. They are remembered on the New Zealand Memorial to the Missing at Messines where every year a commemoration ceremony is held on this date. The missing in action from the Battle of La Basse-Ville (Belgium) and other battles of that period, are also commemorated on the New Zealand Memorial to the Missing at Messines. After Messines, the New Zealanders were moved to defend the area around the nearby village of La Basse-Ville from June until August 1917 before moving off to the Passchendaele area.

Here is another poignant quote, this time from the WW100 FB page: “It is vital that, in [the] wake of such a globally transformative and impactful, tragic event, we remember. We take the time to reflect on the losses suffered, and the lessons learned to allow us to avoid it happening again. Even 100 years later, it is still important that we do not forget.” 89% of New Zealanders felt it was important to commemorate the centenary of the First World War and 82% of New Zealanders believe the First World War has been relevant in shaping our national identity to some extent. Now that the centennial events have all taken place, WW100 is closing up shop, you can read their final report here https://ww100.govt.nz/final-report

Yes, we ARE holding our annual commemoration on Saturday 12th October 2019 at 11am, please write it in your diary now!

A century on, two Auckland women have been honoured for their work during World War One https://ourauckland.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/articles/news/2019/03/100-years-on-belgium-honours-women-with-a-cause/ The Belgian’s have not forgotten the sacrifice New Zealand made and Belgian citizens will always take the opportunity to show their appreciation if they can, even in the America’s Cup https://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/2015/08/31/team-new-zealand-how-it-all-began/

Board Member Dylan Woodhouse is regularly posting on our Passchendaele Society Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/ThePasschendaeleSociety/ Please click on Follow to help spread the word further into our community. Dylan has slowly built a comprehensive reading list which is now on our website on the bottom of this page http://passchendaelesociety.org/links/

Our new Teaching Resource website is still a work in progress. The Passchendaele Society obtained the rights to https://bloodandmud.org/educational-resources#primary-educational-resources to keep the website alive. This will be promoted through New Zealand schools and they will be encouraged to make use of it. Schools, teachers and students are invited to utilize this resource by linking it with other areas in the social sciences curriculum to answer questions such as “Examine how a significant historical event affected New Zealand society”, this question was taken from a recent New Zealand Qualifications Authority, Level 2 History paper.

If you have a connection with the History department of your old school or that of younger family members, please alert them to our learning resource