Saturday, 13 August 2016

Major Norman Annabell NZ Engineers, a pilgrimage

Major N. Annabell M.C.
The Crossman Family from New Zealand  was doing a battlefield tour in the trail of their (Great)- Grandfather MajorNorman Annabell from Wanganui who earned the Military Cross for distinguished service in the field and was mentioned in dispatches For exceptional efficiency as Adjutant, New Zealand Engineers during the period under consideration – 26th February, 1917 to 20th September, 1917, which included the long and trying preparations for the Battle of Messines…”

It was a very moving visit for his Granddaughter Mrs Crossman, who came with her husband and her son David with his family.
Her son, Commander David Crossman  is the New Zealand Naval Advisor in London, He was doing the pilgrimage together with his parents, his wife Vicky, his kids and his Goddaughter.

Major Norman Annabell was a civil engineer and surveyor and served with the NZ Engineers, he has been with the 2nd Field Company but most of his time at the front he was attached to the NZ Headquarters.
He had a great deal in the preparation for Messines but was also in Passchendaele and during the winter of 1917-1918 in Polygon Wood.
Norman Annabell took this photo in Ypres/Ieper
During this period the the New Zealand Engineers build concrete baby elephant shelters in and around Polygon Wood. Till today you can visit two of those concrete shelters in Polygon Wood. Those are the only known structures build by New Zealanders on the Western Front  are still there.

Norman Annabell wrote the foreword for the  “Official History of the New Zealand Engineers During the Great War 1914-1919 “ .
He was also a good photographer and some of his pictures are in this official history of the NZ Engineers.

He has been serious ill in hospital in November 1915 and a second time ill with influenza in a hospital in the UK in February 1919.

Mrs Crossman, Granddaughter of Norman Annabell with her Granddaughter visiting the bunker that has been build by the NZ Engineers.
the Crossman Family at another NZ concrete shelter in Polygon Wood
He served 4 years and 103 days during WWI with 3 years and 322 days overseas. He was finally discharged 28/05/1919.
He was doing the whole NZ campaign from Gallipoli over Egypt, France and Belgium till the  end of the war!
As so many other soldiers, he was not talking about the war at home.  Only to his Granddaughter he explained his medals when she was asking for it, but when she was asking what he has done to receive those medals, he said he doesn’t want to talk about it because to many young men died during the war.

the Crossman Family at the New Zealand Soldier in Messines.

As I said already he was well educated and he was aware of the sacrifice of his country  who lost a whole generation during WWI.
The families pilgrimage was not only in the trace of the New Zealanders as we normally do but also following the Nga Tapuwae  signs in the landscape to learn about the different battles and with a formal visit to the German cemetery to pay their respect to those soldiers who were 100 years ago the enemy for their (Great)-Grandfather.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Niuean Visit from the Pacific to France and Belgium in September 2016

In September 2016 we will have the visit of a group of 16 people from Niue. Minister Hon Pokotoa Sipeli, Minister for Social Services, which also cover Tāoga Niue, Education & Health will lead the group. A Youth representative (16 years old) is also travelling with them to Belgium and France.
Our recently established non-profit organisation, the New Zealand Pilgrimage Trust ( ), will be involved to help organise their visit.

It’s a mostly unknown story that men fromthe Pacific Island, Niue, came to the Western Front as a contingent of the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces.

Niue is an island in the South Pacific Ocean, 2,400 kilometres northeast of New Zealand, and east of Tonga, south of Samoa and west of the Cook Islands. Its land area is 260 km² and its population is around 1,200. More than 20.000 Niueans are living in New Zealand.

Niue, whose capital is the village of Alofi, is a self-governing state in free association with New Zealand since 1974; and New Zealand conducts most diplomatic relations on its behalf. Niueans are also citizens of New Zealand.

Niueans enlisted in their own country and were sent to New Zealand as a group. Most spoke no English and many struggled to adjust to the army diet and wearing boots.
The greatest danger, though, was European diseases, especially in the cold climate of northern France.

150 Niueans from the (estimated 4,000) population came to the war. They came in October 1915 to New Zealand and embarked for Suez in February 1916 where they became part of the NZ Pioneer Battalion. 
In April 1916 they came to the Western Front, in Northern France .
In May they moved into the combat zone. Much work had to be done during the night. It was a hard and dangerous  time for those men coming from a place where the average day temperature is about 25° C.  
However, illness was the main problem. At the end of May, 82% of the Niueans had been hospitalised. 
It was not only the lack of immunity to European diseases but also the colder climate in France.

By September 1916 they were withdrawn from the Western Front and sent to England and then returned to New Zealand. 16 men died , two of them are buried in Bailleul Communal Cemetery, corporal Tionesini ( ) and private Tauetuli ( ).

Read more about Niue: 

Read more about Niueans in WWI:

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Cité Bonjean Armentières - Sunday/Dimanche 3 juillet/July 2016

Op zondag 3 juli om 11h00 wordt er een plechtigheid georganiseerd om de inzet de herdenken van de Nieuw Zeelandse troepen tijdens het begin van de Slag aan de Somme. Dit zal gebeuren op de CWGC begraafplaats Cité Bonjean, Avenue Roger Salengro nr 54 in Armentières.
De Nieuw Zeelandse Ambassadeur voor Frankrijk, Dr James Kember, de Stafchef Nieuw Zeelandse Landmacht, Generaal Peter Kelly en de Defensie Attaché, Kapitein-ter-zee Shaun Fogarty zullen daar samen met de Franse autoriteiten uit Armentières en Noord Frankrijk aanwezig zijn.
Iedereen is welkom.

Deze begraafplaats bevat de grootste concentratie van geïdentificeerde Nieuw Zeelandse graven! Nergens anders zijn meer Nieuw Zeelanders, slachtoffers uit WOI, op één en dezelfde plaats begraven dan hier.
Het is de eerste keer dat er een officiële Nieuw Zeelandse herdenkingsplechtigheid gehouden wordt.

On Sunday 3 July at 11 AM there is a commemoration and wreath laying service to commemorate the sacrifice of the New Zealand Soldiers in the start of the Battle of the Somme. This will be done at the CWGC cemetery Cité Bonjean Avenue Roger Salengro 54 in Armentières, Northern France.
The New Zealand Ambassador for France, Dr James Kember, the Chief of Army, General Peter Kelly and the Defence Attaché Navy Captain Shaun Fogarty will be present together with French authorities from Armentières and Northern France.
This ceremony is open for the public.
This cemetery holds the biggest concentration of identified New Zealand graves from WWI on one single place.
It will be the first time that there is an official New Zealand remembrance ceremony.


Le dimanche 3 juillet à 11h00 est organisé un dépôt de gerbe au cimetière Cité Bonjean, 54 Avenue Roger Salengro à Armentières (59) en présence
de l’Ambassadeur de Nouvelle-Zélande, Dr James Kember, le Chef de l’armée Néo-Zélandais, General Peter Kelly et l’Attaché de Défense, le Capitaine de vaisseau Shaun Fogarty.
Ouvert au public.
Cette cérémonie, ouverte au grand public, rend hommage aux premiers Néo-zélandais qui perdirent leur vie sur le front Occidental, dans la bataille de la Somme.
C’est la première fois qu’on aura une cérémonie officielle Neo-Zélandaise au Cité Bonjean. Ici au Cité Bonjean c’est la plus large concentration des tombes Néo-Zélandaises identifiés sur une seule place.

Ville d’Armentières, 
Ambassade Nouvelle Zélande à Paris, 
New Zealand Pilgrimage Trust.

Friday, 20 May 2016

CDF New Zealand visit Belgium and pays his respect to forgotten New Zealand soldiers.

On invitation of General Gerard VAN CAELENBERGE, CDF of the Belgian Forces Lt.General Timothy KEATING, CDF of the New Zealand Forces was on a official visit in Belgium.
LtGen Tim Keating at Coxyde Cemetery

There was also some quality time during the visit and they choose to visit a place that was almost forgotten in history.
It's the story of the 2nd Brigade of the New Zealand Artillery in the Field. In this article you can read a summary of that story.


On the cemetery there are 19 victims of WWI and 1victim of WWII (Lt Orchiston , RNZAF) buried from the New Zealand Forces, there is also an New Zealander who was serving with the Australian Artillery and one who served in a UK regiment. Lt Gen Keating and his staff payed their respect to every individual New Zealand grave and together with General Van Caelenberge they each lay a wreath for all 1517 victims from WWI and the 155 victims of WWII.

This CWGC-cemetery is the most important at the Belgian Coast and is just near the barracks of the Air Force Base of Coxyde (these days known as Koksijde).

It is known that Coxyde was a resting place for the soldiers, about 10 km behind the frontline - but often shelled - were they could bury their death during the night.  

This is a picture of a battlefield map with German defence transparent over google earth map, the British sector was from the sea till St Joris/St George.
CWGC Coxyde marks the place of the cemetery.

Summary of the story of the 2nd Brigade NZ Artillery in the Field

After the battle of Messines till the first days of December, 1917, the 2nd Brigade was in action on the Belgian coast, where, about the end of June, British troops had relieved the French on the sector from St. Georges to the sea. This relief was effected in accordance with an arrangement by which the French should take part in the Third Battle of Ypres, by extending the British flank northwards beyond Boesinghe, on the left of the 5th Army.
 The enemy had a strong concentration of artillery who was aggressive during the period July to mid-November.
From 10 July the Brigade marched off for the coast to go into the line near Nieuport. They came in Coxyde on 13 July 1917.
On arrival at Coxyde the batteries were ordered to go into the line next day. The positions were situated on the sand dunes, and guns fired across the Yser Canal. There was heavy shelling every day. The flat country afforded very little cover; and by the end of July the brigade had suffered a good many casualties, six other ranks having been killed and two officers and twenty-six other ranks wounded.
Ammunition and rations were brought up by the road from Oostduinkerke. It was almost continually under fire. Bad weather was experienced in the early part of August, and much discomfort was caused, by the heavy rains; the flats became flooded, increasing the difficulties of transport, and the gun-pits in the low-lying dunes were under water for some time. In digging the pits, water was generally struck about two feet below the surface of the ground, and it was accordingly a case of building up rather than digging in. The 6th (Howitzer) Battery experienced a bad day on the 12th, when three of its guns were put out of action, and on the following day Brigade Headquarters and the vicinity were shelled with what were afterwards discovered to be 17in. shells from one of the big coast guns along by Ostend.
At the close of the month the personnel at the guns was withdrawn for rest situated in particularly pleasant quarters in the sand dunes at Coxyde-les-Bains. During this brief spell all ranks were able to enjoy bathing and football on the beach nearby, which was also used for exercising the horses. The town of La Panne, with some civilian population and open shops, was within easy distance.
On September 2nd the Brigade went into action again. The enemy kept his guns aggressively active. Brigade Headquarters and battery positions were shelled both day and night, and on fine nights the back areas were bombed. Casualties in the brigade during the month totalled thirty-three.
October, ushered in with broken weather, and "shell storms" were of frequent occurrence. During severe shelling on the 8th the 2nd Battery had seven casualties, one of the two who were killed being 2nd Lieutenant T.S. Grant, who had only that day joined the unit, after passing through an Officers' Training College in England.
French troops commenced to take over the sector again in November, and on the 17th of that month a brigade of French Field Artillery marched in to relieve the 2nd New Zealand Brigade. The following day the French batteries conducted their registrations under covering fire from the New Zealand batteries, and on the 20th the relief was complete
The column marched out at Coxyde at 3 a.m. on the 21st November.