Saturday, 20 May 2017

In Memory of Fr James McMenamin

Fr James McMenamin enlisted for service as an army chaplain in August 1914 and went overseas with the NZ Expeditionary Force.

He went ashore at Gallipoli early on the first day of the landings and during his time ministering to troops in the terrible conditions, he became greatly respected and admired by all soldiers, whatever their rank or religion. Another chaplain wrote “No place was too hot for him. He carried water, he helped the wounded to the beach, he was up night after night doing good”. His health suffered terribly and he spent some weeks recuperating in Egypt before returning to Gallipoli. When he was invalided home in October 1915, his enlistment weight of 67kg had dropped to less than 44kg.

After a period of recuperation in New Zealand, Fr McMenamin returned to England where he spent the rest on 1916 as a chaplain in New Zealand military hospitals in England.

In January 1917, Fr McMenamin returned to frontline duty in France, attached to 2nd Battalion on the Canterbury Regiment. 8 June 1917, Father McMenamin, New Zealand chaplain, had been called to theburial of a Catholic soldier near Messines. While he was reciting the final commendation at the gravesite, a shell blew up near him and killed him although his death is recorded on memorials as 9 June because this is the date his family was given.

Col H Stewart, Commanding Officer of the Canterbury Regiment wrote: “Whilst engaged in these last solemn rites of the battlefield, a shell killed the Rev JJ McMenamin, a man of the highest character, unsurpassable courage and kindly disposition who showed to perfection that shrewd judgment tempered by charity of men and things, characteristic of the best type of Roman Catholic priest.”

This very zealous chaplain, who was held in high esteem by his soldiers, was, on the wishes of this Parish Priest, brought to Nieppe where he was given solemn funeral rites.

Fr Raphaël Vandaele, Parish Priest of Nieppe, wrote: “The mayor gave permission for this priest to be buried in the parish priests’ vault. This act of goodwill was made known to and very appreciated by Archbishop O’Shea, Archbishop of Wellington (New Zealand).”

r McMenamin was initially buried in Messines but was later reinterred in the curé’s vault in Nieppe.

Remembrance Service in Nieppe and Messines
Father McMenamin was the only New Zealand Roman Catholic chaplain to be killed in action in either World War One or World War Two. Another died after WW1 as a result of his service.

Father McMenamin's "battlefield chalice" will be arriving with the New Zealand Defence Force contingent and will be returning to NZ with them.

The chalice was presented to him by parishioners before he left for war and was returned to the parish after his death here. The boys at a local Catholic school have made a case for the chalice to travel in from New Zealand native woods.
We are planning to put it on display at Messines.

A number of parishioners from Sacred Heart are coming across for the June 7 and June 8 services.

Father Brian Fennessy, who is coming across to represent Cardinal Dew, the Archbishop of New Zealand in Wellington, and also a Belgian and New Zealand Padre together with the Priests of Nieppe and Messines will do the service in Nieppe at 4 pm and also the Holy Mass at Messines at 7.30 pm on 8 June 2017.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Kia Maumahara Māori Pioneers -Forgotten 43

Kia Ora 

During two days, the New Zealand Pilgrimage Trust was hosting a special group New Zealanders and Cook Islanders. Sue Baker-Wilson, QSM was the first to contact us and it was a fantastic idea to estend the visit to Northern France and Belgium.

Most of the group are descendants of soldiers who fought in the Maori Pioneer Battalion. Pioneers were working with the engineers and did hard labour under very difficult conditions (bad weather, shelling, gas,...). They made trenches, plank roads, dugouts, shelters, duckboard tracks, and many more work, some have been used as foresters and 43 members of the Maori Pioneer Battalion have been in Arras to dig the tunnels prior to the Battle of Arras. Some of them have signed their work  in the tunnels of Arras. The descendants of those 43 made a group known as the “Kia Maumahara Māori Pioneers -Forgotten 43 “. They have been the guests of honour in Arras and they could descent in the tunnels made by their forebears. Three of those tunnelers are buried in Belgium because they have been killed here later in the war.

The Forgotten 43 are the only known group of Pioneer descendants to travel together for the WW1 commemorations. As such, they are also be paying their respects and acknowledging all NZ (Maori Pioneers), not just their own loved ones.

Kiro Luke Adam a soldier from Cook Island
Not only Maori people were part of the Maori Pioneer Battalion but also people from the Pacific Islands as Cook Island. This was a reason for the Queens Representative of Cook Island, His Excellency Tom Marsters and Lady Tuaine to come over and pay their respect to their forebears. Only one of the 11 Cook Islanders who died during the Great War is buried in Belgium.
But H.E. Tom Marsters would do a pilgrimage to all the graves and Memorials for his ancestors and also pay his respect to the Maori Pioneers who died on the Western Front because they were all Comrades in Arms during WWI. They were accompanied by Mrs Moeroa Hobbs and Mr. Anthony Brown.

VIP visit for Private Kiro Luke Adam

H.E.'s Gregory Andrew, Tom Marsters and Lady Tuaine
We started Monday morning in Armentieres 
Cité Bonjean
and visited different cemeteries and graves with a group of about 30 persons.
we gave all pioneers a Dolores cross

visit for Frank Wiki

Ploegsteert Memorial

Underhill farm
In the evening the group was hosted by the Last Post Association together with 2,000 Canadians who were here for the Battle of Arras and the Battle of Vimy.
H.E. Tom Marsters and Lady Tuaine were laying a wreath together with the New Zealand Ambassador to Belgium H.E. Gregory Andrews. Different Maori and Cook Island families did the same. 

waiting for the wreath laying
On Tuesday we could continue our visits and we started with Ramparts Cemetery in Ypres/Ieper where some Pioneers are buried. Amongst them 6 young Maori who have been killed by shell fire on 31 December 1917 while doing road works on the road to Zonnebeke. Then we moved to Passchendaele and visited the New Zealand sector, ‘s Graventafel, Belle Vue Spur and a small exhibition about the involvement of New Zealand during WWI in the Old Cheese Factory. Of course we visited also Tyne Cot Cemetery because there is also a Maori Pioneer Battalion soldier, Jack Hunter,  buried who was killed in the Battle of Passchendaele and originally has been buried at Schuler Galleries.
Tyne Cot Cemetery

6 Maori who died on 31/12/17

Jack Hunter on Tyne Cot

Maria and Jo mourn at the grave of a family member

We went also to Polygon Wood to visit the New Zealand graves and for the Memorial for the Missing New Zealanders but also to learn about the work of the Maori Battalion during the winter of 1917-1918. The visit to the New Zealand bunkers in the wood was also a highlight. We ended this day in Heuvelland and visited the Pool of Peace, a WWI crater from the Battle of Messines and a small cemetery near the Seule where we visited the grave of a family member of my contact person in the group of the Forgotten 43, Elanar (Maria) Tibble.
It was a huge honour and at the same time a real pleasure to be with the group and share our common history and learn a lot about other cultures. It was very moving to see that some graves were visited for the first time by a member of the family and to see how they respectful visited the other graves on the cemeteries.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Parliamentary Delegation from New Zealand visit to Belgium

On 24/03/2017 we've got the visit of a parliamentary delegation from New Zealand.
MP Annette KING, MP Melissa LEE and MP Tracey MARTIN have been in Brussels for meetings with the European Union. They had a half a day off and they decided to come to the battlefields to honour their Forebears who have been here 100 years ago.
They had the company of the New Zealand Ambassador to Belgium, H.E. Gregory Andrew and the Defence Attaché RNZN Captain Shaun Fogarty MNZM. A Belgian MP of the European Parliament, MP Tom Vandenkendelaere came to Passchendaele to pay his respect for the New Zealand victims.
the Memorial for the Missing New Zealanders

MP Tracey Martin has four relatives who fought on the Western Front. Arnold Wells is on the Memorial in Messines, Samuel King was badly wounded in Polygon Wood end November 1917 (after being gassed in July and a gunshot wound in August) and died exactly one year later at home, Ralph Ansol died in October 1918 in the battle of Lesdain and is buried in Naves communal cemetery extension and in the same place his brother Frederick was wounded.

They visited Tyne Cot, ‘s Graventafel and Belle Vue Spur in Passchendaele.

at the Old Cheese Factory

 In Messines they visited Messines Ridge Cemetery and the Memorials, also the Memorial for the New Zealand Soldier on the Market place (known as Sgt Kiwi)).
MP Lee cleaning Sgt Kiwi

the delegation in Messines hosted by the Mayor, Sandy Evrard, MNZM and the local guide Steven Reynaert, MNZM

 A special visit was planned to St. Quentin Cabaret Military Cemetery where 11 New Zealand Soldiers are buried who have been killed on 24/03/1917, exactly 100 years ago. 

Extract from the Official History of the Otago Regiment, N.Z.E.F. in the Great War 1914-1918

At 4 o'clock on the morning of March 24th the enemy opened a terrific bombardment over the left of the sector occupied by the 2nd Battalion of the Regiment, the full force of his fire being directed over the locality extending from Spring Walk to the Wulverghem-Wytschaete Road and beyond, across Slush Gap and into the neighbouring Division's sector. The bombardment opened with heavy minenwerfer fire, followed by high explosive shell and shrapnel. The S.O.S. call was immediately sent to the 1st Field Battery by the officer on trench duty. Shortly afterwards the wire to the 15th Howitzer Battery and the direct wire to the Artillery Brigade were cut by the heavy shelling. Our artillery retaliation, however, was prompt in reply to the first call, and being on the correct sector gave immediate support to our infantry. About five minutes after the opening of the bombardment numbers of Germans moving in two lines in single file and estimated in strength at about 80, were observed advancing across No Man's Land. Our Lewis guns at once opened fire on them, and it appeared as if the attack might be beaten off. The enemy, however, succeeded in entering our front line between Durham Road and Northumberland Avenue, and penetrated to a depth of about 100 yards. They were finally driven out by our Lewis gunners and bombers, who displayed great gallantry under a most intense bombardment. Between 5 and 5.10 a.m. the bombardment slackened off and a few minutes later ceased. Our casualties were 12 killed, 21 wounded, and one missing, believed buried. Three members of the Lewis gun crew of the left post were killed and one wounded, and the remaining man stuck to his post to the last.

red spot on battlefield map shows place of the cemetery

visiting the individual graves

Paying respect

a wreath for all the victims

After this visit it was time to go to Ieper/Ypres for the Last Post ceremony under the Menin Gate. 
the delegation hosted by former chairman LPA Guy Gruwez, MNZM

MP Lee read the Ode

after the wreath laying

with the buglers under the Menin Gate

After the ceremony they returned to Brussels.