Thursday, 30 April 2009

Carleen Ebbs sang Po Atarau on Buttes New Cemetery

Dawn Service on Buttes New Cemetery

Carleen Ebbs sang Po atarau at the Dawn Service without the sound system – she filled Buttes with her absolutely beautiful and incredibly powerful voice and had all the Kiwis there in tears. At Messines she sang the National Anthem in English and Maori, again without a sound system, and reduced the entire place to tears. At the Menin Gate she sang Abide With Me.
She came for free from London to perform. We are very grateful that she was here. Her parents came especially from New Zealand to be with her on the battlefield during this first Dawn Service.

Overview of the people attending the first Dawn Service in Belgium on Buttes New Cemetery.
Some 350 people attend the Service.
Governor Paul Breyne opened the exhibition in the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 after the Dawn Service. On this picture you see the Governor reading his speech with Alderman Franky Bryon and ceramic artist Helen Pollock on his side.

This is the guard of honour on Tyne Cot Cemetery for the ANZAC commemoration service at 10.00 am.

and the first VIP row during the commemoration service

Helen Pollock meets Rik Ryon

Helen Pollock, the ceramic artist who made the beautiful art work - Falls the Shadow - was visiting Rik Ryon, the artist who's work is on display in New Zealand, during her stay in Belgium.

Monday, 27 April 2009


The Mayors of two districts, a world apart, will come together for the first time this ANZAC Day to commemorate the sacrifice of New Zealand soldiers in Flanders fields.

Dirk Cardoen, Mayor of Zonnebeke-Passendale – where one of the most devastating conflicts of the first world war was fought – is travelling to the “uttermost ends of the earth”, where the kiwi soldiers came from so long ago to fight for his country’s freedom, to honour a rekindled bond of friendship.

The districts of Zonnebeke and Waimakariri, in North Canterbury, formally twinned during the 90th commemorations of the Battle of Passchendaele, in 2007. The arrangement is one of only the second entered into between our two countries - the other is between Messines and Featherston.

Waimakariri District Mayor, Ron Keating acknowledges the significance of this first official visit, which will see the two Mayors jointly launch the touring exhibition Passchendaele: The Belgians Have Not Forgotten, in Christchurch on April 21st.

“While the 90th anniversary of that battle was the trigger that revived the linkage between our communities, this visit, to share in these special moments with us, clearly illustrates the value Zonnebeke places on our newfound friendship.”

The Waimakariri and Zonnebeke districts have a similar urban/rural and geographic and demographic mix.

But it was ultimately the sacrifices made by the young men of the district during the Passchendaele campaign that was the deciding factor in Zonnebeke extending the invitation to twin with Waimakariri.

Zonnebeke Mayor Dirk Cardoen says there is no mistaking the fact the two communities remain inextricably linked with each other.

“Our historically based bond is strong and through this twinning the municipality of Zonnebeke hopes to grow an enhanced awareness of the futility of war for future generations.

“We are convinced the twinning is the best assurance the sacrifice of your young men will be remembered.”

The Zonnebeke Municipality has been instrumental in facilitating the exhibition Passchendaele: The Belgians Have Not Forgotten, developed by the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.

Prime Minister's Anzac Day message

The men who landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 could not have foreseen how that date would become embedded in the consciousness of future generations. Year after year, New Zealanders reflect on the sacrifice of our servicemen and try to make sense of that piece of history.
ANZAC Day has become an opportunity to honour all New Zealanders who have served in times of war. It is a day to mark our proud history of sacrifice and heroism, to remember those men and women who put their lives on the line for our country, and who fought for a better world.
And it is a day to reflect on our ties to each other and our shared nationhood.
When I attend ANZAC Day ceremonies I am inspired to see the large numbers of young New Zealanders who stand shoulder to shoulder with proud veterans.
ANZAC Day has become a day that unites generations of New Zealanders and that binds us to our history as a country.
This year, there is a special significance as we mark the 70th anniversary of the beginning of World War Two.
It is sobering to remember that the First World War - "the war to end all wars" - sowed the seeds of a new catastrophe for the next generation. Some New Zealanders remember World War Two. By listening to their stories, we learn about a period of history that should never be forgotten.

We no longer have that opportunity in relation to the First World War, but there is much that can still be done.
New Zealand has signed a "Shared Memories Arrangement" with the Flanders and Belgian governments. In reflection of this, an exhibition from the Memorial Museum Passchendaele is currently touring New Zealand. It is called, "The Belgians have not Forgotten" and includes images and artefacts from the Western Front.
War memorials and cenotaphs nationwide are a permanent reminder of the toll of the Great War. The Western Front claimed the most lives. But it was in the trenches at Gallipoli that the terrible nature of this war first became clear.
Our servicemen met adversity with courage and honour. In the words of Governor-General Sir Charles Fergusson on ANZAC Day 1928:
They showed us how it is possible for men and women like ourselves - not heroes, but ordinary people - to rise to heights of sacrifice which had never been known to be possible. They raised to a higher plane the standard of life of every one of us. The inspiration they have given will last and will be handed down to generations yet unborn.
John Key, Prime Minister

Freddy Declerck addresses guests during a tour of the exhibition.
Mayor Cardoen, wife Rita and Councilor Ingrid Vandeputte are in the background.

Mayor Dirk Cardoen presents a Rik Ryon sculpture to Kaumatua Johnno Crofts.
Waimakariri Mayor Ron Keating is to the left and Freddy Declerck to the right.

Mayor Dirk Cardoen and Kaumatua Johnno Crofts 'hongi' (rub noses) - a traditional Maori greeting.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Moving to Christchurch

I'm part of the delegation and I'm on my way to Christchurch for the opening of the exhibition. Currently I'm waiting in London, to catch my plane to Bangkok, then I go to Sydney and finally to New Zealand. Within 2 hours I'm on my way.
I was lucky I could have a computer at Heathrow airport to make this message.
We arrive at Christchurch on Monday 20 April at 1.35 PM if everything is according the plan!!!
We will open the exhibition on the 21th, but we are staying for ANZAC day with our friends in Waimakariri.
We are travelling 2 days to go to New Zealand.
It's a long time and not easy because we are not used to do this. Think only to the soldiers who came from New Zealand to the Western Front, it was 7 weeks on a ship. They didn't got the same accomodation either. And we don't even speak about the food they got. What we are doing is nothing when you compare it to what they have done. Almost 1 on 5 didn't return at home.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Next stop: Christchurch

After the Easter break our team in New Zealand dismantled the exhibition for its trip south.
There were a number of bets on between Jo (project manager) Duncan Sandeman(NZ Army ) and Alister Verschoor( Waiouru Museum) about how long it would take for them to dismantle.

Jo is pleased to say that she was on target and put it down to her practical "woman skills" however Alister's very clever thought about protecting the plinths that Michael Petterson had built , by putting them in the packing case nearly caused the works to stop. Great idea but we could not lift the crates they were so what to do, well of course we had our Paul (Paul Riley - Curator National War Memorial) and he rustled up , no less than a , forklift .
This saw some very heavy boxes loaded onto the truck in record time, not to say how it saved our backs or the worse situation of having to unpack the boxes.

The visitors book has some very poignant comments made by people visiting the exhibition

'A very thought provoking display"
" A beautiful and dignified memorial...thank you"
"Special exhibition,helping our younger generation gain a little understanding of what our forefathers and fore mothers went through"
"A magnificent,powerful exhibition,wonderfully organised,in which facts were given great reverence by the sculptures as well as the photos-I am less ignorant than I was-"
" A very moving tribute-the sculptures are truly beautiful"
" A sobering reminder of what my grandfather T Halstead(Jack) went through at Passchendaele
"A moving experience-thank you from a grateful generation"
" What our father never told us"
" A key factor in New zealand's history that makes us who we are"
"Thank you for bringing this exhibition to New Zealand. I could today pay tribute to my Fathers eldest brother who died in France of wounds received at Passchendaele"

Today the NZ Army will transport the exhibition across Cook Strait to the South Island and then on down to Christchurch ,where a new team under Jo's guidance (now looking for a forklift) will set the exhibition up in Our City o Tautahi ready to be opened by the Mayor of Waimakariri and Mayor of Zonnebeke on 21 April.

The delegation lead by Mayor Cardoen have a busy schedule while they are guests of the Waimakariri District Council, including an official welcome/Powhiri, tour of the district, visits to the Returned Servicemen Associations, whale watching in Kaikoura, a visit to Okains bay which will include a traditional Maori welcome and a visit to one of the best collections of Maori artifacts in New Zealand held in the Museum, the Anzac services at Christchurch, Kaiapoi and Rangiora including the Anzac concert in the Town Hall , with the NZ Army playing, for the first time a specially commissioned piece called "Passchendaele"

Tuesday, 14 April 2009


Private Stanley George Harding was one of twenty-one young men from the Waimakariri District who found themselves fighting against the odds for survival on October 12, 1917 – New Zealand’s bloodiest day.

In just four hours 2,700 New Zealanders were either killed or wounded as struggled to scale the heights of Bellevue spur.

Stanley Harding, the carpenter from Kaiapoi, would be among the 845 killed that day.

He was just 27 years old.

It appears as though he spent most of his last night negotiating his way through the dark and the damp to reach his forward support lines, where he would have waited in the rain for the dawn.

History tells us his own artillery shells would have fallen just behind him and then advanced over his trench.

He would have heard the Otago’s advance and then, a short while later and still in the darkness before sunrise, he would have advanced across the Ravebeek Stream and up the easy muddy slope to the first set of wire – which as we now also know remained uncut.

He was later seen lying on the slopes of Bellevue Spur, badly wounded in the lower abdomen and is today buried at Poelcapelle British Cemetery in Belgium.

It is young men, like Stan Harding, the touring exhibition Passchendaele: The Belgians Have Not Forgotten, which opens in Christchurch next week, has been designed to commemorate.

Developed by the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, it focuses on how memories of New Zealand’s efforts during the devastating campaign, more than 90 years ago, continue to occupy a place in the Belgian consciousness.

Passchendaele Society President, Freddy Declerck (who will be in New Zealand for the Christchurch opening) says, the exhibition reflects on a very different landscape today, than the New Zealanders encountered in 1917.

“Today, this ground is quiet farmland, but it is also one of the most iconic and emotional places in your country’s past, and for those who cannot journey to Belgium, we feel it is our duty to bring at least an impression of Flanders Fields to you because nobody should ever forget what happened in and around Passchendaele and Messines and the sacrifice of the thousands of your brave men who came across to help us, for which we are eternally grateful.”

The exhibition Passchendaele: The Belgians Have Not Forgotten - opens at Our City O-Tautahi on April 21st after a successful six week season in Wellington.

It features photographs by award winning British photojournalist, Michael St. Maur Sheil, sculptures by Belgian artist Rik Ryon made from driving bands of shells, and relics from the battlefields themselves.

Freddy Declerck says the people of Belgium want to show New Zealanders how they care for the dead and how they remember everyday with their history.

“In the early years after the war, New Zealanders couldn’t afford to come to Belgium to commemorate your people, your people who are here under the graveyards, our graveyards and so it has been our duty to guard and commemorate them.

“Today, more and more ordinary people are thinking of an uncle, a great uncle, who they have not known and who they have heard stories about, that has come to Flanders battlefields. But where it is not possible for them to see it with their own eyes, they can never really know what happened here, where they have been, how they have suffered, what the mud was like and so on.”

“We are saying to you, we will take care of your dead, but you are always welcome here in Flanders. Come – travel in the footsteps of your ancestors. We would love to see you.”

A Belgian delegation, which includes the Mayor of Zonnebeke Dirk Cardoen and several aldermen, will attend the Christchurch opening during their visit to Waimakariri. (The two districts twinned during the 90th commemorations of The Battle of Passchendaele.)

A five minute excerpt from a soon to be released documentary “Our Bloodiest Day” will also premier at the Christchurch opening.

For more information and to arrange interviews with Freddy Declerck -

Lauren McKenzie
Communications Advisor
Waimakariri-Zonnebeke Trust
P: 021 22 66 785

Sunday, 12 April 2009

This is the grave of Ewen Taylor from Canterbury New Zealand. He died on 8 January 1918. He never received any visit from family or friends. He's buried in Oxford Road Cemetery in St. Jan/Ypres. His battalion was at Noordemhoek, a hamlet of Beselare (Beselare is part of Zonnebeke). It's sad to know that his Battalion has been relieved the day he died. Noordemhoek is NE of Nonnebossen and Butte's. The little cross in flax with the NZ RSA poppy that you can see on the picture (lower right) has been made by Dolores JN Ho from the Waiouru Army Museum and has been placed on his grave by Maria Vander Meiren and Sabine Vanderhaeghen who visited New Zealand recently with the Belgium delegation for the opening in Wellington.
We will remember him.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Belgians Get To Experience Their Battlefields Through New Zealand Eyes

Works of War Artist Go On Display For the First Time

This Anzac Day, the people of Belgium will be able to experience the battlefields of Flanders for the first time, though the eyes of New Zealand’s Official World War I Artist.

George Edmond Butler was a landscape and portrait painter specialising in oils and watercolours, before he was asked to use his skills to capture the landscape of war.

Joining the New Zealand Division in France in September 1918 as an honorary captain, he carried a sketchbook in which he made pencil drawings of actual operations and war scenes, often under fire.

These sketches were later used as the basis for his many paintings.

Passchendaele Society President, Freddy Declerck, says Butler was not only a gifted artist but also an eye-witness who could express his view in a way which can now be seen by all of us, even today, more than 90 years on.

“We are extremely grateful to have the opportunity to show the people here his colour paintings about our landscape in and just after The Great War.

“There are few pictures of all those places, and of course, none in colour. It is an immense privilege for us to host such a valuable collection portraying our landscape back in time.”

Butler’s works will be on display in a commemorative exchange exhibition in the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 from April 25th to November 15.

(Passchendaele:The Belgians Have Not Forgotten is currently touring New Zealand. It will open in Christchurch on April 21st.)

It’s believed to be the first time all 26 of Butler’s works will have been on display outside of New Zealand. Certainly it is the first time they will have been seen in Belgium.

It has been said Butler’s war paintings capture the realities of war through a civilian’s eyes, mirroring the view of the New Zealand citizen soldier.

Freddy Declerk says there is no glory, only the stark depiction of waste and loss.

“They are an evocative indictment of war that, ironically, has remained largely unseen by the New Zealand public. “

Butler immigrated with his parents to Wellington, from England, in 1872, when he was 11.

After studying abroad, including at the Antwerp Academy in Belgium, Butler exhibited in Christchurch in 1900, before setting in Dunedin, where he tried unsuccessfully to make a living as a professional artist, eventually returning to England in 1905.

He was recruited to the role of war artist in 1918, in recognition of both his reputation as a painter and his New Zealand connections.

After the war, Butler was privately commissioned by Cabinet Minister, Colonel R. Heaton Rhodes and the New Zealand Divisional Commander, Major General Sir Andrew Russell to do a further series of senior officer portraits and a number of large landscapes of New Zealand exploits on the western front.

The New Zealand Government purchased these works in September 1921.

They will be displayed in Belgium alongside a spectacular sculpture by Auckland ceramic artist, Helen Pollock, using a mix of New Zealand clay and clay from the battlefields of Passchendaele.

“Falls the Shadow” depicts a grove of hands reaching up in a way that suggests aspiration and death against a background of trees stripped bare by the war.

The Passchendaele clay comes from the place the New Zealanders stopped to rest the night before the devastating attack on Bellevue Spur, which cost 845 of our soldier’s lives.

Freddy Declerk describes it as “a fitting reminder of the futile death of young men in an unsurpassed disaster.”

Helen Pollock will be in Passchendaele for the Belgian Anzac Day commemorations.

For more information:

Lauren McKenzie
Communications Advisor
Waimakariri-Zonnebeke Trust
P: 021 22 66 785

For more information on George Butler: