Thursday, 15 October 2009

Exhibition in Takapuna

Includes the entrance to the Fort and the exhibition, some shots of the exhibition inside the fort and the wreaths laid during the Commemoration Ceremony

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Passchendaele Commemoration Service 12/10/2009

Iain MacKenzie
Honorary Consul of Belgium (2001-2009) reporting:

On a beautiful and sunny spring evening a memorable and touching Commemoration Ceremony was held at Fort Takapuna at 7 pm on Monday 12th October 2009

The Band of the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery entertained the large crowd of over one thousand people who had gathered outside the Fort in sight of the 5,000 white crosses erected in memory of the 5,000 New Zealand Soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country fighting for freedom in Flanders.

Master of Ceremonies Bob Davis introduced His Worship the Mayor of North Shore City Andrew Williams who spoke of the enormous sacrifice made by New Zealanders in Flanders and the relevance of holding the ceremony at Fort Takapuna where the Auckland Regiment and the Pioneer Maori Battalion had trained before leaving New Zealand for Flanders.

His Excellency the Ambassador of Belgium Patrick Renault responded by assuring New Zealanders of the gratitude of the people of Belgium even after 92 years had elapsed and promised that Belgium would continue to look after the graves of New Zealanders as they had done in the past. The Ambassador pointed out that although it was sunset in New Zealand it was sunrise in Belgium when 92 years to the minute the New Zealand Division was given the order to attack Belle Vue Ridge in what was to become the biggest disaster in New Zealand's history.

The Takapuna Grammar School Girls Choir then gave a beautiful rendition of " In Flanders Fields" which was written by the Canadian Lieutenant Colonel Dr John MacRae to music written and conducted by Robyn Goodge.

There followed a wonderful ceremonial presentation which was passed onto the New Zealand Army by the British Army and was a shortened version of the time - honoured Beating Retreat Ceremony which dates back to 1554 when the drums were beaten on the battlefield to tell the troops to retire to the rear whilst sentries were set up for the night. From 1788 the lowering of the flag became a tradition in the Army and now every evening in Military Camps throughout New Zealand a bugle sounds the retreat as the flag is lowered. This Sunset ceremony involved the parading and mounting of the guard, musical troop ,and the playing of music as the New Zealand ensign and the Belgian ensign were lowered.

The ceremony began with the marching on of the guard of the Battalion descended from the three battalions who fought at Passchendaele under the command of Lieutenant William Wright RNZIR and led by the Band of the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery to the famous march of the time " Invercargill ". The Guard took up position and conducted a formal dressing prior to the marching on of the Regimental Colour, which bears the battle honour Passchendaele. The large crowd then stood for the arrival of the Regimental Colours.

Major Terry O'Neill then inspected the guard. Historically this inspection is a ceremonial one which is carried out by looking into the eye of each soldier to see if they are fit and able to carry out their duties. If the day's fighting had fared badly the soldiers may well have been exhausted or wounded. If the fighting had been successful the soldiers may well have over-indulged in the issue of rum and not be fit for duty.

After the inspection of the guard the crowd stood for the National Anthems of Belgium and New Zealand followed by the Ode, which was recited by Theo Thomas of Papakura Returned Servicemen’s Association a veteran of World War 2 whose father fought in the first world war.

As the sun set the Belgian and New Zealand Ensigns were lowered and the Band played " Sunset " composed by Captain Arthur Green, Director of Music, Her Majesty's Royal Marines in 1932. Arthur Greens son John was part of the audience and confessed later to having been absolutely moved by this performance.

As the Regimental Colour marched off it was followed by a silence which was broken by Lone Piper John Graham playing the lament " Flowers of the Forest " and leading the Mayor , the Ambassador, the invited guests and the public to the 5,000 crosses where wreaths were laid as the Band played " The Day Thou Gavest Lord Has Ended, The Darkness Falls At Thy Behest."

A reception for invited Guests followed the laying of wreaths in the Fort Takapuna Officers Mess.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

A momentous morning in North Shore City

His Worship the Mayor Andrew Williams hosted a morning tea at 10 am and the dignitaries included The Prime Minister the Honorable John Key and His Excellency the Ambassador of Belgium Patrick Renault, The Minister of Defence the Honorable Dr Wayne Mapp and local Members of Parliament. The Mayor of Waimakariri Ron Keating was joined by the Mayor of Manukau Len Brown and many other community leaders.

The dignitaries proceeded to the front of the North Shore Council Chamber to watch the Auckland and District Pipe Band arrive with a skirl of the pipes and drums followed by a group of old soldiers and New Zealand citizens who received loud applause from the huge crowd. Then followed the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery Band and a hundred defence force soldiers, sailors and air force personnel. All received warm applause from the citizens of North Shore City.

Kamatua Morgan Peeni spoke in Maori and offered a prayer.

Mayor Williams was invited to inspect the Defence Forces on parade and the Ambassador joined him whilst the Artillery Band played.

The Mayor then spoke of the importance of commemorating the sacrifices of New Zealanders at Passchendaele and on the Western Front and His Excellency replied by confirming the gratitude of the people of Belgium to the sacrifices made by New Zealanders 92 years ago. As the rain began to fall the Ambassador remarked that it made him feel very much at home !

The Prime Minister then emphasised the links between New Zealand and Belgium and spoke about the similarity in the roles that both nations were playing in peace keeping activities throughout the world. He confirmed that the New Zealand Government was looking at ways of commemorating Passchendaele as a signifiant part of New Zealands history, culture and heritage.

Wreaths were laid at the North Shore City Council Memorial and then the National Anthems of both Countries were played..

The parade then marched off towards the sea and returned to march past the Mayor who took the officicial salute and again the crowds showed an emotional response in honouring the bands and the marchers.

The Dignitaries then returned to a civic reception provided by the North Shore City Council where the Belgians in informal speeches stressed the warm and human response of the North Shore Community and how they felt truly welcomed in New Zealand.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Three generations of Zonnebeke's

Alexander Worsfold was the Grandfather of Phil Martell from Auckland.
He was a soldier in the Great War and he came to Flanders from 1917 till 1918.
He was in Zonnebeke when his daughter was born and he asked his wife Myrtle to give her the name...Zonnebeke. Unfortunateley Myrtle tragically died at age 24 during an influenza epidemic.

Alexander Worsfold in his army uniform

Alexander, Zonnebeke end Myrtle circa 1919

He enlisted in the Army in August 1914 (aged 23) at the outbreak of the war and joined the First NZ Expeditionary Forces to Samoa. His military number is 1/429. He was overseas until 15th April 1915 and was discharged after he came home.

In 1915 he married Myrtle Alabaster and it would also appear that she had just become pregnant when he rejoined and left for France via the UK on 9th June 1917. It is more than likely that he was unaware that she was expecting their first child and may have remained so until he found out eventually that she had been born.

As Myrtle died so early, Phil's mother was an only child. She married Reg Martell, Phil's Dad, in 1938 and had four children Vicki, Glenys, Phil(ip) and Christine. Phil gave his second daughter Lauren the middle name Zonn as this was what his mother’s name was often shortened to (or Zonnie) and then in the next generation there are two of Zonnies great grandchildren who have her name or a derivation as a second name too. So that connection carries on. Many members of the family, including his mother, have visited the town over the years and it has become somewhat of a family pilgrimage.

They are all immensely proud, as Zonnebeke was, to have this connection and in particular to know that it grew out of those terrible times when great sacrifices were made by so many. They were the lucky ones – Alexander came home from the killing fields in Flanders.

‘Three generations of Zonnebekes’ was taken just a few years ago before Zonnebeke’s death, in 2007. Around Zonnebeke Myrtle Martell (nee Worsfold) are from left to right, Phil's Daughter Lauren Zonn Meyers (nee Martell), her daughter Holly Zonnebeke Myers and Phoebe Zonne Videbeck granddaughter of Phil's sister Glenys Power and daughter of Kelley.

Alexander was a tailor and spent all his life in that trade, finishing up as manager for a large men’s suit manufacturer. He was from a large family who were settled in a small rural town of Feilding in the lower North Island of New Zealand. His parents emigrated from Horsham in the UK to New Zealand in 1874. Their home in Feilding was quite grand and set in magnificent gardens and so too was the neighbouring home owned by his Uncle. Alexander himself grew up with a great love of gardening. He also played the trumpet and there is evidence of his belonging to the military bands in both Samoa and Belgium. He was also involved in the Lodge and rose to the position of Grand Master in Wellington where he lived after leaving Feilding.

New Zealand’s blackest day to be remembered

It was the worst military disaster in New Zealand’s history. Within a single day’s battle on 12 October 1917, more than 2700 New Zealanders died, were wounded or declared missing.

The number of Kiwi deaths that morning – more than 850 – was greater than the combined toll of the eruption of Mt Tarawera, Hawkes Bay earthquake, Tangiwai rail disaster, sinking of the Wahine, and Erebus plane crash.

Ninety-two years later, on Monday 12 October 2009, a commemorative ceremony will be held to remember those lost in the Battle of Passchendaele and the rest of the Western Front.

The ceremony, hosted by North Shore City Council, will take place from 7pm at the historic Fort Takapuna in Devonport.

It will include involvement by dignitaries, the Band of the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery, the 3rd Auckland (Countess of Ranfurly’s Own) and Northland Battalion Group of the New Zealand Army, along with members of the public and local school students.

Five thousand crosses have been erected on the former parade ground at Fort Takapuna in remembrance of the New Zealand lives lost in Belgium - and the fort itself is currently home to the exhibition Passchendaele: ‘The Belgians Have Not Forgotten’, now open daily until 15 November.

His Worship the Mayor of North Shore City, Andrew Williams says the battles on the Western Front of World War One were a terrible tragedy for New Zealand.

“We were a country of only a million people, so the loss of life in these battles had a devastating effect on our society and it cut to the heart of the New Zealanders who fought there.

“It’s an honour for North Shore City to be able to offer an opportunity, through the exhibition, commemoration ceremony and other events, for people to reflect on this period of our history and consider the great sacrifice of our soldiers.”

The commemoration ceremony will be held at sunset to reflect the ‘Last Post’ ceremony which takes place every night by the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium. The ‘Last Post’ ceremony has been performed daily by Belgian buglers since the 1920s to express the gratitude of the Belgian people towards those who died during World War One, for their freedom and independence.

At Fort Takapuna, the Band of the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery will perform, and the sunset remembrance ceremony will feature the Regimental Colour of the 3rd Auckland (Countess of Ranfurly’s Own) and Northland Battalion Group.

The Takapuna Grammar School girls’ choir will perform a fitting tribute, with a song entitled “Poppies and Pohutukawa”.

Following this, wreaths will be laid by Mayor of North Shore City, Andrew Williams, His Excellency Patrick Renault, Ambassador of Belgium, invited guests and members of the public.

Lieutenant Colonel Chris Powell, Commanding Officer of the 3rd Auckland (Countess of Ranfurly's Own) and Northland Battalion Group, says he is delighted to be involved in commemorations.

“The Auckland Regiment was awarded the Battle Honour “Passchendaele’’ and the battle is therefore of great significance to those of us who serve now and have done so in the past.

“As direct descendants of the regiment that fought at the battle of Broodseinde, it’s important to us that we can be involved in this event,” he says.

The Battle of Broodseinde took place on 4 October 1917, eight days before the disastrous events of 12 October, and helped to open the way for New Zealand soldiers to Passchendaele.

Members of the public are invited to attend the ceremony and are welcome to bring tributes to place on the white crosses.

The exhibition, Passchendaele: ‘The Belgians Have Not Forgotten’, will remain open to the public until 6.45pm on Monday, to allow those wishing to visit the exhibition prior to the commemoration ceremony to do so.

Those wanting to find out more about Passchendaele commemorations can visit


Passchendaele Commemoration Ceremony
Date: Monday 12 October 2009
Time: Ceremony starts at 7pm. The exhibition will remain open to the public until 6.45pm that day.
Location: Fort Takapuna, 170 Vauxhall Road, Devonport

Passchendaele: ‘The Belgians Have Not Forgotten’ Exhibition
October 4 – November 15, Open 10am – 4pm daily. Fort Takapuna, 170 Vauxhall Road, Devonport.

A moving exhibition by the Passchendaele Memorial Museum, featuring photographs, movies, music, information and artefacts from battles fought 92 years ago. The exhibition follows the journey of New Zealand soldiers from Gallipoli through Flanders to Passchendaele and highlights the memories which live on in Belgium today. The exhibition has been presented in Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Featherston and Waiouru, before finishing its tour of New Zealand in North Shore City.

His Worship the Mayor of North Shore City, Andrew Williams, phone: 09 486 8687, email:

Olivia Starrenburg, North Shore City Council Communications Advisor, phone: 09 486 8600 ext 8749 or 027 241 3165, email:

Iain MacKenzie, Honorary Consul of Belgium (2001-2009), phone: 09 575 6202 or 027 495 5226, email:

Lieutenant Jeremy Seed, New Zealand Defence Force, 021-0233-2663

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Prime Minister of New Zealand the Honourable John Key will attend the Passchendaele March Past and Review

We have just heard that the Prime Minister of New Zealand the Honourable John Key will attend the Passchendaele March Past and Review on Saturday 10 October 2009.
He will be accompanied by his Chief Press Secretary Kevin Taylor as well as a Police Contingent.
He will speak at the Review Ceremony and lay a wreath in commemoration of the lives lost at Passchendaele and in Flanders.
It's a great honour for us and we are very grateful that New Zealand is commemorating the day "the spirit of the New Zealand Division has been broken", 12 October 1917. A black day in the young history of a great Nation.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Passchendaele Concert at Bruce Mason Centre

Report from Auckland:

The Passchendaele Concert at the Bruce Mason centre was sold out three weeks prior to Sunday 4 October 2009. The concert featured Auckland's four great bands, the Royal New Zealand Navy, Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery, Royal New Zealand Air Force - Base Auckland and the Auckland and District Pipe Band together with guest international vocalist Celine Toner.
The audience of twelve hundred people enjoyed a wonderful performance and there was absolute silence as Lode Notredame - a Belgian living in Auckland - gave a moving thanks to the New Zealand soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice at Passchendaele on the 12th October 1917 .
The audience included the Mayor of North Shore City Andrew Williams, the New Zealand Minister of Defence Dr Wayne Mapp and First Alderman Franky Bryon and other invited dignitaries.
Profits from the concert will go to the Ranfurly Home for veteran soldiers.
It was a wonderful afternoon of world class music and of course just as the rain had earlier poured down on the outdoor opening ceremony of the exhibition the sun shone down on the indoor concert.