Thursday, 22 September 2016

Victory Medal

For the past two years Victory Medal, commemorative sculpture has been touring to installations in Provincial Museums throughout New Zealand.

Victory Medal is an art work from the very well known Auckland sculptor Helen Pollock. 

Its final installation in New Zealand is on Remembrance Ridge in Wellington Botanic Gardens spanning the months of the centenary of the New Zealander involvement in the Battle of the Somme. September 15 – November 13 2016 

The Unveiling of ‘Victory Medal’ and Ceremony for the centenary of the New Zealanders first engagement on the Western Front in the Battle of the Somme 15 September, was at Remembrance Ridge in Wellington Botanic Garden

It was a wonderful event on an unusually beautiful still day.
Her Excellency Mrs Florence Jeanblanc-Risler Ambassador for France in New Zealand and members of the French Embassy attended. Don Staples, Belgian Consul in Wellington represented the Belgian Embassy in Canberra.
Both Councillor Justin Lester, Deputy Mayor of Wellington and Sarah Dennis Former New Zealand Ambassador to France spoke of the important connections between Wellington and France and Belgium , and of the installation over the next few years of Victory Medal in Europe.  

The installation on Remembrance Ridge in Wellington Botanic Gardens will leave for Europe late November.

There is already a work installed in Belgium, Zonnebeke, in the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 and also in the Navy Museum in Devonport NZ.  
With this work in France Helen Pollock will have linked together Belgium, France and New Zealand with three different works remembring World War I and the New Zealand sacrifice.
As did the young men of the provinces a century ago, Victory Medal will leave New Zealand from Wellington for the sea voyage to Europe. It will cross the countryside of Northern France and Belgium, to the three battlefield towns of Arras, Messines and Le Quesnoy”. Like 7500 young New Zealand soldiers in WW1 it will remain in France.”

Victory Medal Tour Destinations in France and Belgium from March 2017:

Arras, France March – June 2017. Victory Medal installation in the Place des Heroes in front of the Belfroi (UNESCO Site) for the Centenary of the Battle of Arras April 9 ( and commemorating the New Zealand Tunnelling Company)

Messines Ridge in Belgium June 2017 - February 8 2018 Victory Medal  in the Town Square to commemorate the Centenaries of the New Zealand Division involvement in the Battle of Messines, June 7 – Feb 2017, 

La Basse Ville, July 2017,

Passchendaele, October 2017  

Polderhoek, December 2017 and final withdrawal of the New Zealanders from Belgium February 1918.

Le Quesnoy: November4 2018   A permanent installation of Victory Medal to commemorate the New Zealanders liberation of Le Quesnoy, in front of the proposed New Zealand Memorial Museum.
Like 7,500 young New Zealanders, Victory Medal will lie forever in France.

The Victory Medal Tour is in partnership with the New Zealand Military Historical Soc. and has received funding from New Zealand Lotteries, the New Zealand France Friendship Fund and Auckland RSA. It has the support of the Wellington City Council.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Longueval, Battle of the Somme commemoration

Prince Charles in Kiwi uniform with the French minister of Veteran Affairs

Military Musicians from the New Zealand Forces. They have been outstanding! you also see the Mayor of Staples, Eddie Defevere. He has only one New Zealand Soldier buried in his village (Charlie Hillman from the Maori Pioneer Bn) and his village give him always he same honours as for the French. I suppose what you are doing for one Kiwi, you are doing it for the whole Nation.

The New Zealand Minister of Defence

The New Zealand Chief od Defence with a French General

HRH the Prince of Wales and the NZ Minister of Defence

The First Row, also with Ambassador James Kember from Paris.

The New Zealand Maori Cultural Group

Also a photo of the New Zealand Maori Cultural Group performing during the ceremony

Sir Peter Jackson has offered some WWI airplanes for the ceremony

HRH The Prince of Wales will lay a wreath

HRH paying his respect to the Men on the Missing Memorial and all those who died or were injured

The NZ Maori Culural Group and the official photographer of the NZDF.

Some very well known NZ-ers

HRH Prince Charles in a meet and greet with the Minister of Nieu and the President of the Niue RSA

The NZ Memorial at Longueval, exactly the same as the one in Messines and Passchendaele. Those three places are places of special interest in the hostory of the NZ Forces during WWI.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Pilgrimage from Niue

Yesterday, 12 September 2016, we could host a group of 16 from Niue. Commissioner General for the commemoration of WWI in Belgium, Paul Breyne, Last Post Association Chairman Benoit Mottrie MNZM and New Zealand Pilgrimage Trust Director Freddy Declerck MNZM were talking about commemoration and remembrance with the group.
Afterwards they have been under the Menin Gate to commemorate all the people who died during WWI thay were given a very important role standing in the middle of the road under the Menin Gate they song a hymn and the Hon.Pokotoa SIPEL,  Minister of  Social Services said the Ode.

Wreath laying was done by the Minister, the President of the Niue RSA and one of the women who were with them. After the ceremony, the Minister was thanking the buglers and giving them a traditional shell bread.

Today, 13 September, we have gone to the graves of the two Nuieans to pay our respect to them.

It was a short but moving ceremony the group did. we have been assisted by the Mayor of Bailleul, Mr. Marc DENEUCHE, the deputy ayor Mr. Bernard HEYMAN and councillor  Mr. Jean CORDONNIER, Mr. Gérard LEMAIRE who is a local historian who did a lot of research on Bailleul, we Souvenir Française was represented. Another good friend and passionated about WWI, Dominique BASCOURS was there to take some photos of the ceremony. Mrs Noella TAHON from Staple was also paying her respect during the ceremony. She was the driving force for the remembrance service for Charlie HILLMAN on the 20th of  August.
the ceremony started with singing and praying, after thise was a speech of the Mayor, Mr. Lemaire was giving the historical context. The Hon Pokotoa SIPEL,  Minister of  Social Services from Niue was thanking the people of France and Belgium.

There was also a wreath laying sequence done by the French hosts. The ceremony was closed by a prayer and a hymn.
The people of Niue were very grateful and are now heading for Arras and Thursday 15 September
they will be at Longueval for the New Zealand official Somme commemoration.


Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The Pilgrimage of Sir Peter Jackson 2016

With Sir Peter in the trenches of MMP1917.
In good old Kiwi style tradition he's walking barefoot.

The grandfather of Sir Peter Jackson was with the 2 South Wales Borderers in the 29th Division when he was wounded on the July 1st 1916. He was out for a couple of months but once recovered he came back to his unit who was in Flanders that time.. In 1917 he was fighting in the Battle of Langemarck, the Battle of Broodseinde and the Battle of Poelcapelle during the Battle of Passchendaele.
Sir Peter made this pilgrimage to the Somme to find out exactly where his grandfather was wounded. But first he wanted to pay a visit to the Battlefields of Flanders where not only his grandfather was in 1917, but also where his great uncle was missing during 2ndYpres on 8 May 1915. He invited his uncle Frank (90 years) and two cousins to come with him.
The New Zealand Pilgrimage Trust had the honour to help them during their visits to places of interest for New Zealanders and people of Wales.
Polygone Wood Cemetery
We know Sir Peter since a couple of years and it is always a pleasure to host him.
Monday we have been on the 1915 places of interest for him and his family, yesterday we have been in Messines and the MMP1917 in Zonnebeke and today we did a battlefield tour. the rest of the week will be in Northern France and the Somme.
It was nice to hear that he loves the Memorial Museum Passchendaele (he was already visiting in 2014 , see: ) and made a promise to come back.
Making local friends

A picture of Tommeke

And a selfie

Logo New Zealand Pilgrimage Trust

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Commodore (Ret'd) David Palmer RNZN in Ieper/Ypres

It was a special day for me on 3 September to welcome Commodore (Ret'd) David Palmer RNZN and his wife Rosemary in our region again. He has been here before but he promised to come back to pay his respect to his forebears with some more time. He did a battlefield tour in Northern France in the trail of the New Zealanders, after he has been already doing a battlefield tour in Flanders with me in the past. We had a nice evening together and we could share a common history. It was also nice to know that his wifes great great grand mother was a Belgian lady.

Commodore Palmer reading the Ode under the Menin Gate

By chance it was the same weekend as the forging of the poppies on the market place in Ypres / Ieper.  Commodore David Palmer is living in Christchurch, New Zealand and a Christchurch blacksmith was forging 100 iron poppies for the new memorial remembering lives affected by WWI! This memorial will be placed near the German Cemetery in Langemark, but during this weekend the public could help to forge poppies in Ypres/Ieper.

With his wife, daughter and granddaughter at the Memorial on the market place in Ieper/Ypres.

You can see the story of the New Zealand blacksmith from Christchurch who made about those poppies on this link:

More general you can see more

about the project here

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: