Thursday, 6 December 2012

New Zealand’s Minister for Police and Corrections (and formerly Minister of Veterans Affairs), Judith Collins in Passchendaele

Today, H.E. Mrs Judith Collins came to visit the battlefields in and around Passchendaele and Polygon Wood, together with Ambassador Paula Wilson and staff from the High Commission in London and the NZ embassy in Belgium. Mr. Francis Claeys, CEO of Zonnebeke was welcoming the Minister and her Party.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Members of Parliament at Passchendaele

A delegation of four senior New Zealand Members of Parliament was visiting Passchendaele on 10 November 2012 . MPs Phil Goff, John Hayes, Paul Hutchison and Su'a William Sio. They were accompanied by Paula Wilson, New Zealand Ambassador-Designate to Belgium and David Dewar from the New Zealand Embassy in Brussels.

With a local re-enactor

Visiting the New Zealand Apse for the Missing at Tyne Cot

meet and greet
with LtCol Nick Gillard in the Old Cheese Factory before heading for Crest Farm

 The MP Delegation was visiting the Passchendaele Memorial Museum and was on the battlefield at Frezenberg, Wieltje, 's Graventafel en Belle Vue. But also on Tyne Cot Cemetery.   The MP delegation was guest of honour on our annual Crest Farm Ceremony. Every year at 6 pm on 10/11 we remember the end of the Battle of Passchendaele and the capture of Passchendaele by the Canadian Forces. Every year we remember not only a Canadian soldier by name but also soldiers from other Commonwealth Countries and a German soldier.   For New Zealand we commemorated George Knight  

You can find the text that was read by MP John Hayes during the Ceremony: 8/1532 Lieutenant George Bernard Knight
Otago Infanterie Regiment
Killed in Action, 12 oktober 1917

George Knight, a farm hand of Dannevirke, joined up on 20 December 1914, enlisting as a Private at Trentham Camp. He embarked on 14 February 1915 with the Third Reinforcements and after training in Egypt; he saw his first action at Gallipoli. In August 1915, he was hospitalised due to illness and after discharge from the hospital in Cairo, he was employed at the School of Instruction at Zeitoun Camp.

In February 1916 he was promoted to Lance Corporal and embarked for France in April 1916. He was promoted to Corporal and was wounded in action at Armentieres. After a period of convalescence in England and further training, he was promoted to Sergeant. He was a natural leader with ability and charm, and seemed to influence all those around him. Two months later he was nominated for officer training and on 15 June 1917, he attained the rank of Second Lieutenant.

Five days later he left for Etaples in France and joined the 2nd Battalion, Otago Infantry Regiment ‘in the field’. From this point on he was involved in much of the heavy fighting and on 12 October 1917, it was his turn to go ‘over the top’ up Bellevue Spur, towards the tiny village of Passchendaele. Leading his men, as commander of 8th (Southland) Company in the 2nd Battalion Otago he was at the centre of the first wave. He encountered the impenetrable wire and he was cut down by a burst of machine gun fire only feet from the enemy positions. His body was never recovered and on his Service Record, it states: “Many of these men were buried by stretcher bearers where they fell, to right and left of road beyond Waterloo Farm across Ravebeek and up towards cross roads”.

The casualties incurred by the New Zealand Division on 12 October were approximately 2,730 !

Nearly every New Zealand family was affected by Passchendaele, or knew someone who was.

In less than four hours more than 60% of the New Zealanders who had taken part had become casualties. In terms of lives lost in a single day, this remains the blackest day in New Zealand’s post-1840 existence

on the evening of October 23 the Canadians, who were to play such a major role at Passchendaele, arrived to take over the New Zealand sector and other parts of the line.

What was left of the New Zealand Division retreated and Passchendaele was eventually taken by Canadian forces on 6 November after two further battles. The village had been completely destroyed. By the time the New Zealand Division was finally withdrawn from Flanders in February 1918 three Victoria Crosses had been awarded for bravery but they had suffered more than 18,000 casualties including around 5,000 deaths.

All in all 12,500 New Zealanders died on the Western Front out of the total of 18,188 who lost their lives in this war. The magnitude of the death toll in the First World War is put in perspective when it is realised that more soldiers were killed in this war than the total of the Boer War, World War Two and Vietnam combined.

The loss of George was another blow to his parents, Nellie and Herbert Knight, who had already lost their son Herbert Augustine at Gallipoli. The war was to bring further tragedy to the Knight family who later lost another son, William, on 1 September 1918 near Bancourt, France. George is commemorated on Tyne Cot Memorial, New Zealand Apse, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Passchendaele, Belgium.

MPs Phil Goff, Paul Hutchison and Su'a William Sio  laid a wreath on behalf of the Government and People of New Zealand.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Message from the Passchendaele Society of New Zealand

October 2012 E-DITION #6

Dear All

Welcome to the Passchendaele Society’s 6th edition of E-News!
If you are a new member, you can catch up on what we have been
 doing on the Newsletters page of our website.

95th Commemorations

The Commemoration of the 95th Anniversary of the Battle
of Passchendaele took place on Friday 12th October at the
 Auckland War Memorial Museum.
There was a great turnout and the Hall of Memories
was filled to capacity, the Museum estimated there were
350 to 400 people (including band and choir)
by the number of seats they put out.
The guests included the
Minister of Veterans’ Affairs, Hon Nathan Guy, the
National President of RNZRSA LtGen Don McIver,
several Auckland Councillors, members of the Diplomatic
Corps and local heads of the military Services. 
Guest speakers this year were Professor Glyn Harper QSM
and Lt. Col. Chris Powell ED.
Glyn said “War is the destroyer of families and the Battle
of Passchendaele destroyed more families than any
other action in our military history”

Our Vice-President Chris Mullane read a very graphic
and moving poem by Wilfred Owen called
Dulce et Decorum Est. Listen to this reading and then
watch the video that comes after (a mixture of real and
movie footage), very powerful!
Be warned, for the first time in many years I was
reduced to uncontrollable sobs!
Another one of his famous poems was called
Anthem for Doomed Youth, you can hear the reading here.
It too is accompanied by some very moving images.

The ceremony was followed by a Passchendaele Luncheon
hosted by the Auckland Officers’ Club at the Northern Club,
where Glyn Harper gave a creative presentation about some
 of the photos he used in his recently released book
“Images of the Great War”.

World War One Centenary project announced

Auckland Council announced a commemoration project
 for the Centenary of World War One. A steering group
will organise events for the period from 2014 to 2018. 
These will include considering initiatives such as a
World War One heritage trail on public parks and land.
Chair of the Parks, Recreation and Heritage Forum,
Councillor Sandra Coney, says cenotaphs, memorials
and war graves will be cleaned, restored and where
necessary upgraded for the centenary. She says we owe
a huge debt to the young men and women of Auckland
who sacrificed their lives, health and prospects for the country.

RNZRSA affiliation

At their Annual General meeting in Wellington on
15 to 17 October the National Council of the Royal
New Zealand Returned and Services Association approved
the admittance of the Passchendaele Society as an Affiliated
Organisation  effective from 1 November.

Ron Longley, Board member responsible for Related
Organisations, represented our Society at the National Council
meeting. He said to the meeting that the Passchendaele Society
has a lot in common with the RSA. Ron also said on behalf of
our Society that we are very proud to be affiliated to the RNZRSA.

Chris Mullane was also in Wellington and briefed the National
Council on the White Crosses Fields of Remembrance project.
The concept was well received and at breaks during the rest
of the day he was inundated by local RSA representatives from
around the country wanting to discuss the project and how they
can be involved.
Many have asked for some of the white crosses from the 2009
Exhibition at Fort Takapuna in advance to the centenary
commemorations so that they can emulate the Whangarei RSA
who now enact a particularly wonderful annual
commemoration event centred on the 650 white crosses
they obtained from us back in November 2009.

Royal visit

A high level Belgian delegation led by HRH Prince Philippe
will be coming to New Zealand towards the end of November.
Four members of the Belgian Federal Government’s Organising
Committee for World War One Centenary have joined this delegation
and have asked to meet with Iain MacKenzie, our President
of the Passchendaele Society to discuss commemoration plans.

New Youth Ambassador

The Passchendaele Society’s first Youth Ambassador
Eve Bain laid a wreath at the Wellington ceremony on
our behalf on October 12th.
She said she enjoyed the Commemoration thoroughly
and that there was “a 5-person choir whose performances
I found moving, especially when they sung 'In Flanders Fields',
the venue was beautiful” but that
the “public attendance was quite low”.

This year’s Y13 winner of the Veterans’ Affairs competition
was Nathan Garry from Dunstan High School, Central Otago.
He attended this year’s ceremony in Auckland and was
presented with his prize by VA Minister Hon. Nathan Guy.
You can read his winning entry here.

Nathan Garry has accepted the invitation to become a
Youth Ambassador, he said
 “The opportunity to attend the Commemoration on 95th
Anniversary of The Battle of Passchendaele was both
an honour and a privilege.
I would like to extend my thanks to all members
of the Passchendaele Society who made this competition possible.

I have gained from this experience in many ways.
The encouragement of the competition gave me the motivation to
delve into my past, through the research I gained an insight into not
only the lives of those directly related to me but a better appreciation
of how this tragedy affected communities around the country.”

Portraits of Passchendaele

A special thanks to the Auckland Suburban Newspapers 
for their initiative in promoting the competition called 
Portraits of Passchendaele”. 
The competition was aimed at youths under 16 to encourage 
young people to find out about their ancestors’ involvement 
in the Battle of Passchendaele. 
Some of their stories can be read here.

I was touched by what young Sam Molloy wrote 
“Hundreds of people died in minutes and yet everyone just seems 
to move on. To me, this is unacceptable and rather than trying 
to forget all destruction that  occurred that day, we should embrace 
all the amazing people who gave their lives to this country and 
if there is one thing we shall not do, 
it is to forget them, because if we did, they would have died for nothing“.

Follow up stories before and after October 12th were also featured  
in several Suburban Newspapers, contributing to a massive 400 hits 
on our website on October 12th alone!

How to contact us (Editor:  Sandi Notredame)
Or telephone:- (09) 413 5322 (Hon. Secretary Bob Davis).

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Lewis Holden, CEO of the New Zealand Ministry of Culture and Heritage

Lewis Holden, CEO of the New Zealand Ministry of Culture and Heritage (NZs lead agency for World War One Centenary Commemorations) was visiting the NZ battlefields in Flanders.

He was here to meet some key people involved with WWI commemoration in Belgium to prepare the centennial.

After visiting Messines and Ploegsteert this morning (6 October 2012) he was in Passchendaele, Zonnebeke and Polygon Wood in the afternoon.

The weather was as bad as 95 years ago, rain the whole morning but at least we had a clear view of the landscape in the afternoon. We started in the Passchendaele Memorial Museum 1917, we went to Frezenberg, Wieltje, St Julian, 's Graventafel, Belle Vue, Tyne Cot and Polygon Wood.

As we said often: the landscape is the last witness!
It was good to talk about our shared memories, culture and common heritage.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Battle of Broodseinde , 95 years ago

Today exactly 95 years ago, on 4 October 1917 started the Battle of Broodseinde, part of the Battle of Passchendaele. Four ANZAC Divisions were at the centre of the major thrust in the Battle of Passchendaele. One of these, the New Zealand Division, is to provide central flanking support by seizing ‘s Graventafel Spur, it is also known as the Battle of Gravenstafel. 

David Gallaher
David Gallaher, former captain of the Original All Blacks was wounded at 's Graventafel and died later that day.

The 3rd Australian Division took Tyne Cot (today Tyne Cot Cemetery), Lewis Mc Gee from the 40th Bn earned his VC. The 1st and 2nd Australian Division were attacking Broodseinde.
It was a formidable task requiring the men to advance up open slopes, all of which were comprehensively covered by a mixture of mutually supporting German pillboxes as well as isolated machine-gun groups posted in shell holes and protected by barbed wire.
Lest we forget

Friday, 14 September 2012

New Ambassador designate to Belgium

Paula Wilson was visiting the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 today

After a visit to the new building, a preview of the trenches
Today, the new ambassador designate for Belgium was visiting the battlefields in Flanders.  In Zonnebeke H.E. Paula Wilson (together with David Dewar and Lt Col Nick Gillard.- see pictures) was hosted by Mayor Dirk Cardoen, Depuy Mayor Franky Bryon, CEO Francis Claeys, curator Franky Bostyn and chairman of the Passchendaele Society Freddy Declerck. There was also time to visit 's Graventafel, Tyne Cot cemetery and the Visitor Centre.
Francis Claeys, CEO of  Zonnebeke entering the dug out followed by H.E. Paula Wilson

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Restoration of Passchendaele in New Zealand

Ab608 Passchendaele in 1925


One of the highlights of the World War One Commemoration Programme in 2014 to 2018 could well be the sight of the restored steam locomotive Passchendaele making its way majestically throughout New Zealand.

In 1925 the Minister of Railways, Gordon Coates agreed to name a steam locomotive “in memory of all those members of the New Zealand Railways who fell in the Great War”. The Somme, Ypres and Le Quesnoy were all considered but the decision was made for Passchendaele.The locomotive chosen to carry the name was Ab608, built two years before the Battle of Passchendaele in October 1915 at the Addington Railway Workshops in Christchurch.

In their prime the Ab class hauled all the principle express trains through both islands but Passchendaele was retired in October 1967 when its boiler required heavy repairs. It was subsequently given in 1978 to the New Zealand Railway and Locomotive Society for preservation and in 1993 it was arranged that Steam Incorporated would take charge of Ab608 and restore it to operating condition.
Founded in 1972 Steam Incorporated is dedicated to the restoration to full working order of former New Zealand Railways locomotives. It is a Registered Charity and based on the site of the historic locomotive depot at Paekakariki.
The Society have so far spent around $250,000 on restoring Passchendaele and hopes to raise a further $100,000 to complete the restoration by late 2013.

It is envisaged that the restored locomotive could feature in troop train re-enactments and be used as a mobile memorial site and for touring exhibitions during the World
War One Commemorations.
A Steam Incorporated renovated engine and carriages.

Congratulation to Steam Incorporated for the wonderful work they are doing.

If you wish to learn more or make a contribution to the Ab608 Passchendaele Restoration Fund  contact

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

R.I.P. Lt Col Eru Ihaka Manuera

The Maori Party acknowledges the sad passing of retired Lieutenant Colonel Eru Manuera, a former NZSAS officer decorated for bravery in Borneo.
"Lieutenant Colonel Eru Manuera served his country with great pride and courage" said Dr Pita Sharples. "His bravery was aptly recognised with the Military Cross for gallant and distinguished services in Sarawak. He will forever be remembered for his valour within the ranks of Tumatauenga; particularly his contribution as a member of the First Ranger Squadron for the New Zealand Special Air Service".
"When Lieutenant Manuera was awarded the Military Cross he was acknowledged for his 'quick thinking, personal example and forceful leadership' which directly contributed to the saving of lives".
Eru with his granddaughter at the monument of Brig. L. Andrew VC

 We farewell this great warrior from Te Aupouri who joins his brothers gone before him. Our sincere sympathy is extended to his wife Diana, their children and mokopuna

I feel really sad with this news about Eru, I had a regular contact by e-mail with him  and I was fortunated to be his guide in 2010 when he came to the battlefields in France and Belgium on a pelgrimage to commemorate the fallen members of his iwi.