E-news #39

Posted on May 15th, 2019
March 2019                                                                                            E-DITION #39

Dear Members,

Here follows a little news to keep you up to date.

100 years ago

On 25 March 1919, the last New Zealand soldiers left Europe and the New Zealand Division was officially disbanded. The New Zealand Expeditionary Force’s campaign on the Western Front cost more than 12,000 lives in France & Belgium. With approximately another 500 New Zealanders falling while serving in imperial units, including the Air Forces & Navy, New Zealand’s death toll during the four-year Western Front struggle was close to 13,000. See Snippets below about the book For King and Other Countries to learn more about this.

The Armistice did not mark the official end of the war – the terms of peace had not yet been signed. Almost immediately, communities throughout New Zealand and the Empire began to plan elaborate peace celebrations that would mark the official end of the war in a manner befitting the sacrifices that had been made. Here in New Zealand, the 1919 peace celebrations in were complicated by two factors. The first was a worsening coal shortage that affected trains and electricity supplies. Because of the uncertainty surrounding rail services, the government gave more responsibility to local bodies to organise their own peace celebrations. The second factor was confusion over the timing and form of the imperial peace celebrations. New Zealand’s preparations were well advanced when the British government changed its plans after the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28th, 1919. The New Zealand government agreed to follow the new British plan – a day of thanksgiving on July 6th and peace celebrations on July 19th. Most New Zealand communities also held a Soldiers Day on Sunday 20th and a Children’s Day on Monday 21st. In Europe, several New Zealand soldiers participated in the victory parade of Allied Forces in France on Bastille Day, July 14th, 1919. https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/victory-parade-paris-14-july-1919 They then headed over to London for the July 19th parade.

In Belgium 100 years ago, the decision to fully reconstruct the destroyed town of Ypres (Ieper) was taken in Le Touquet France, where Ypres’ town officials then resided. Winston Churchill (yes the one…) 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. 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.

The spring of 1919 saw lots of small prefabricated huts put up to house the returning people to Ypres. From July 1919 a subsidy was offered to those who wanted to return to Ypres and the surrounding ruined landscape of the Ypres Salient. The subsidy would help towards the costs of building basic accommodation to live in. Payment for war damages was also offered to help people make a new start. Returning farmers began the enormous task of trying to salvage what they could of their farms, equipment and machinery. Very little food could be produced in the area of Ypres in the early days after the war. It would take some years to clear the land of abandoned military equipment, ammunition and bodies. Ploughing the ravaged fields could be extremely hazardous due to unexploded shells and collapsing underground tunnels. Also, a plague of mice ate through much of the crop growth in the fields in the 1920s.

AGM reminder

You should have all received the official invitation to our AGM, if not please contact the Hon. Secretary (address at the end of the E-News). Apologies should be sent in advance. The AGM will be held on Thursday 28th March 2019 at 5pm at Eden Park Stadium, Walters Road, Kingsland. Please enter the Stadium by Gate A (at the Sandringham Road/Kingsland Railway Station end of Walters Road). You can park inside the grounds. The entrance to the ground floor meeting room is immediately to the left of Entrance A to the actual stadium – please register on arrival. There will be an opportunity to pay subscriptions ($20, cash or cheque only), register new members and/or purchase lapel pins ($6 each, or 2 for $10, cash only). We would like to encourage your attendance as we seek to map the way forward and hope to see you there!

We understand that not all of you can attend, especially those members from other cities or even countries! However, we would like to thank you for your continued support of the Society as we continue to strive to meet our aims of supporting the commemoration and recognition of the Battles of Passchendaele. Members that have not yet paid their dues are encouraged to do so, please. We will also be asking members to target their own family members and friends to suggest that they too join as a way to support the work we do in continuing to raise the awareness of the Battle of Passchendaele. To stand still will result in us going backwards.

Saint David’s Church, Auckland

After a long and arduous campaign, it was announced on Friday 15th March that the St. David’s Presbyterian Memorial Church, 70 Khyber Pass Road, Grafton, Auckland has been designated a Category A Historic Heritage Place. This is the highest classification, reserved for buildings of outstanding regional and national significance. The church has strong war commemoration connections and has many plaques with the names of the fallen. The Passchendaele Society made a written submission on their behalf in support of their campaign.

New Patron

The Passchendaele Society’s Board is excited to announce the acceptance of the nomination of Wayne “Buck” Shelford MBE to be our new Patron. We are very grateful to former Prime Minister Helen Clark who has been our Patron since the Society was formed in 2011, but unfortunately her logistics whereby she now spends a great deal of time overseas have rendered it impractical for her to continue in the role.

We are delighted that Buck Shelford has agreed to stand for election, which will be voted on at the AGM. He and his wife Joanne have several personal connections to Flanders, having lost 14 relatives during WW1.

Balloons over Waikato

Dianne McKee’s striking Poppies Balloon will be in attendance at Balloons over Waikato on March 19th to 23rd this year. Dianne is an active member of the Passchendaele Society helping us to keep alive the memories of the events that took place at Passchendaele 100 years ago. Please take the time to drop in and say hello. Or members can offer to Dianne directly to help out by attending and handing out Passchendaele Society brochures. Dianne and her family often fly their balloon at various events and schools around the country. For more information and/or enquiries for a special event, please contact Dianne directly on diamckee@hotmail.com

Other Snippets

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

Board Member Dylan Woodhouse is regularly posting on our Passchendaele Society Facebook page. This is proving a successful way of educating the Public about the Battle of Passchendaele.

I encourage those who do not already do so, to visit our Facebook page occasionally to see the considerable content that we are producing, including soldiers’ stories, reading lists and video footage Please click on Follow to help spread the word further into our community. https://www.facebook.com/ThePasschendaeleSociety/

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” from a recent New Zealand Qualifications Authority, Level 2 History paper.

Author Ken Baker has generously donated to the Passchendaele Society over $1,000 (to date) from the proceeds of his book The Obscure Heroes of Liberty. We sincerely thank him for his ongoing generosity!

Finally, something for our numerous Wellington members – our historian Glyn Harper is launching a new book at the Theatrette in the Museum Building, Massey University, Wellington, 6-9pm, Thursday 4th April 2019.  For King and Other Countries is a story about the many New Zealanders living abroad or travelling when war was declared in August 1914 and rushed to sign up to defend the Empire – it was often easier to enlist locally than travel back to New Zealand to join the NZEF. For King and Other Countries makes a unique contribution to our understanding of our military. If you wish to attend, email editorial@masseypress.ac.nz by 28th March. Books will be available for signing and sale. Or hard-backs are available on pre-order https://www.wheelers.co.nz/books/9780995102996-for-king-and-other-countries/?author=Harper%2C%20Glyn&page=4

If you are visiting Belgium then a ‘must’ is a visit to the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 in Zonnebeke, Belgium. The Zonnebeke Church Tower will be open from April 6th, 2019 and will be free of charge. It will serve as a viewing point over the former WW1 battlefield with information on the landscape spread over the 6 floors. The rebuilding of the area is an important topic of this exhibition.

Radio Southland recently featured war poems by Southland poet Wendy Baker. Her Great Uncle William Torode Baker was killed in action on October 4th, 1917 at Broodseinde. You may like to listen to her readings on http://www.accessradio.org/Player.aspx?eid=639a139f-83de-43f2-a7da-6258fa2e0282