Sunday, 13 July 2014

New Zealand Garden in the Passchendaele Memorial Gardens at Zonnebeke

It is with great pleasure that the Passchendaele Society’s ‘project team’ announces the launch of the New Zealand Garden Appeal.

Donations are now being sought to help fund the New Zealand Memorial Garden at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 in the village of Zonnebeke, Belgium – a place where possibly tens of thousands of New Zealanders will visit over the coming years, so something we feel all New Zealanders can contribute to! The area around the villages of Zonnebeke and Passchendaele in the province of Flanders is of immense significance to New Zealand and its involvement in World War I. A staggering 5,000 New Zealanders were killed in Flanders in the series of battles leading to the Battle of Passchendaele.
We are seeking to raise up to $450,000! This figure includes construction of permanent features here in New Zealand and shipping to Belgium. The final figure will depend on sponsorship of services and materials in New Zealand and how much work is done in Belgium for us pro-bono. Members are encouraged to think about becoming Life Members and/or to encourage others to become members.
We will also be seeking funding from Corporate Sponsorship from iconic New Zealand brand names & businesses – there will be opportunities to adequately recognise sponsors, both here and at the garden site in Belgium. Naming rights is another possibility that could be negotiated.
Donations from individuals may be made via the Telecom crowd funding website – 100% of what you donate is then given to this project thanks to the help of the Telecom Foundation. Supporters can create their own fundraising pages to directly support this initiative and become Charity Champions – I just created a Charity Champion page of my own, It was easy and 100% of donations generated from my page and fundraising efforts will go directly to this project! Or you can fundraise or promote events on your own – for example, placing a small bucket (with a lid on) at your workplace or local garden centre to collect donations; or school ‘mufti’ days with gold coin donations would be wonderful ways to fundraise for this exciting project of national significance!
We have taken on this project in response to a request from the WW100 Director to create a suitable design for a New Zealand themed garden in the grounds of the Zonnebeke Chateau, home to the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917. The Passchendaele Memorial Gardens project includes seven poppy-shaped small gardens designed to represent each nation involved, including Australia and the UK. This is an important opportunity for New Zealand to be represented with its own garden. The gardens are all in the shape of a poppy when seen from the air. Elements include three large “petals”, delineated by red planks; a central area designed for seating containing black gravel; a smaller “petal” containing an information panel; and a flagpole. Plant species will be typical for the represented nation. We published a request for expressions of interest and proposals - the winning design was submitted by Cathy Challinor of Boffa Miskell, a prominent design practice in New Zealand. You can see the winning design here.

A little re-cap of our history - the Rt, Hon. Helen Clark ONZ was in Ypres on 4th October 2007 (the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Broadseinde), when she was representing the Government of New Zealand as Prime Minister where, together with the Flemish Government, they signed the Ypres Agreement (2007).

The agreement committed New Zealand to cooperate in “…increasing broad community recognition…educating younger generations…honouring the war dead…preserving heritage material…and encouraging tourism to commemorative and historical sites in Flanders and New Zealand…”

The Agreement then inspired the Memorial Museum Passchendaele to create a travelling exhibition to New Zealand in 2009 entitled “Passchendaele: The Belgians Have Not Forgotten”. You can read her full speech on our Home page.

This in turn inspired our founding Board members to form the Passchendaele Society here in New Zealand to help increase ‘broad community recognition’ of the Battles of Passchendaele!

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Sir Peter Jackson in MMP1917

This week on Tuesday 20 May we've got the honor to welcome Sir Peter Jackson in Zonnebeke and Passchendaele area.

Sir Peter Jackson is very well known as one of New Zealand's best-known film-makers (J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, which has won numerous awards. He stayed with the Tolkien fantasy brand with The Hobbit ).

He was here with his uncle and 2 cousins for a private two-days family visit.
He has been here before in search of the place where his great-uncle was killed in action during the gas attack in May 1915.
This time he asked for a local guide to find the exact place where his great-uncle was killed and where his body was lost during the war.
It was a very nice and pleasant day for all of us because we could help him and his family to locate the almost exact place (today it's cropland and the farmer was very cooperative). We don't want to mention the exact place because we don't want people to go to that particular spot and disturb the farmer. It is also the last resting place of many soldiers who died
After we discovered the place there was a visit to Tyne Cot Cemetery and around 04.30 pm we visited the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.
Sir Peter with uncle and his two cousins in the New Zealand anchor point in MMP1917

Sir Peter is also a member of the W100 committee in New Zealand.

In the evening they attend the ceremony at the Menin Gate. The next day they have gone back to the farm where the body was lost and after that they visited Messines/Mesen.

Thank you Sir Peter for this emotional battlefield experience with your 89 year old uncle !

Saturday, 26 April 2014

New Song from Paul Turner New Zealand

It is most likely that this poem was the product of a joint effort among soldiers on the troopship Maunganui as they travelled to Egypt to join the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Great War. The collections of Herbert Spencer Rutherford and Albert George Turner include handwritten copies of this poem. Both men embarked from Wellington on 8 January 1916 and were attached to the 9th Reinforcements Wellington Infantry Battalion, B Company. At La Basseville, Belgium on 31 July 1917 during fierce fighting, Turner 10/3762 suffered a severe gunshot wound to the chest and Rutherford 10/3728 was killed.

ANZAC Day in Christchurch

Past Honorary Consul for Belgium Michael Petterson and Major Brendan Wood, good friends of us at the Dawn Service in Christchurch
Here you wil see a piece of film footage about the Belgium wreath laying in Christchurch. Honorary Citizen of Zonnebeke Jo Kane is doing the "job" together with Past Honorary Consul for Belgium Michael Petterson. Apologies for the bad quality of the film but it is second hand done from TV by IPhone.

Friday, 25 April 2014

ANZAC DAY in Belgium 2014

 Polygon Wood , Zonnebeke 25 April 2004

For the first time more then 1000 people attend the ceremony.
For the first time we've got children and students attending. The foundation has been made, now they can start building the real commemoration service for future generations.
For the first time there was also a Defence contingent from Australia and New Zealand
Well done!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

ANZAC delegations in Zonnebeke/Passchendaele

An important ANZAC delegation came today, January  31,  to Zonnebeke/Passchendaele area to prepare ANZAC day in our region.
Aussies and Kiwi's facing Polygon Wood
Both embassies; Australia and New Zealand  have been for a couple of days in our region to meet some key people in order to prepare the first ANZAC day of the centenary.
there was also a delegation of Veteran Affairs from Paris (Australia) and  a delegation from London (New Zealand). Both countries will highlight ANZAC day with more specific remembrance and commemoration events. Nothing will change about the general program but there will be more military and cultural involvement the next coming four years.
facing the Stone of Remebrance and the butte.

As you can see, we took a picture from both sides on Butte's New. at the background you can see the Australian Memorial for the 5th Division on the first picture and the Memorial for the missing New Zealanders on the second photo, to be diplomatic they said!

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

New Zealand Museum Directors visiting Passchendaele

Yesterday, 27 January 2014 we've got two New Zealand Museum Directors visiting Passchendaele.

Mrs Jeanette Richardson ONZM, is the director of the National Army Museum in Waiouru. Admiral Roy Clare CBE, is director of the Auckland War Memorial.

Both directors have been here to see how we can cooperate during the centennial.
We've got a fruitful, productive meeting and we have intentions to work together on different levels in different years. Unfortunatelty, it was a short visit. So we could not visit all the places of interest regarding New Zealand heritage.

It was very nice to host both Directors here in Passchendaele and we hope they will work together with the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 during the centennial.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

John (Jack) Stuart Skinner - Otago Regiment

John in 1914

I'm doing research to find Belgian relatives of the families who helped this New Zealand Soldier after he has been captured by the Germans. If you can help me, I would be grateful.
John (Jack) Stuart Skinner fought at Gallipoli in 1914, was invalided back to England, before eventually being repatriated to New Zealand and discharged as permanently unfit for further service.

John in 1918
Not for him though - he re-enlisted in 1917, got to the Western Front was captured in France in 1918 and as a POW finished up at a place ”Wambeek”, these days part of Ternat and in the vicinity of Brussels.  

nominal roll 1917 embarkation date: 26 July
When the armistice was signed, he was taken in by some Belgians who accommodated and looked after him for some time before he was returned to England and then to New Zealand.

His son in law, Kelvin Bremner who lives in Martinborough NZ,  is very anxious to know whether any of the families who were so good to him are still in or around Brussels.  

John in July 1982. He died on December 17, 1983


 extract from his diary :

I stayed on a launch which he owned for the three weeks I was in Brussels.
Two other interesting families I saw quite a lot of. The first was that of a middle aged man and woman with a young family of four of school age, all of whom could speak English. The mother had been a friend of Nurse Cavell, and as a special privilege one day, took me to the law courts and allowed me to sit in the seat that the nurse had occupied when convicted for helping prisoners of war to escape. She later paid the supreme sacrifice when found guilty.
The other was a wealthy Belgian family whose interests I think were in the woollen mills. There was one daughter, Jacqueline, who had been one of the party under Mr Stoefs at Wambeek.
I was several times at their home, a beautiful one, and was also a guest at a welcome home dinner to the only son, a Captain in the Belgian Army, who arrived with the Allied troops when they entered Brussels. All I had in the way of clothes was the khaki uniform with my P.O.W. number in large letters back and front, a shirt with no tail or sleeves, and a pair of boots much the worse for wear. On the table was all the expensive cutlery dug up from the garden where it had been hidden, plus a solid gold embossed finger bowl for everyone. In the course of conversation with the family, I mentioned that many people living in towns in New Zealand had places in the country that they went to in the summer and at holiday time. (I had a mental picture at the time of the unpretentious wooden places at Waitati, Warrington and Karitane). Jacqueline said that they had one too, and produced a photo of it. A beautiful castle of possibly twenty rooms or more surrounded by gardens and woods!!
Perhaps the greatest event while in Brussels was the official entry of the Allied troops ten days or so after the Armistice, if I remember correctly, headed by the Belgians then the French and the British and the Americans, all picked men with regimental bands etc. The ones that caught the imagination most were the Highlanders and the shouts of “Ecosse, Ecosse” as they swung past were deafening.

Here are some letterheads they wrote to him giving their names/address.

address Fernande Hartjens in Brussels
He wrote of his experiences in Gallipoli, France, his capture and his time as a POW in France, and then Belgium till the armistice, and his time with the Belgian families who cared for him after his release.  
John with his platoon section
He got several letters and post cards from Fernande Hartjens, some from Brussels (Ixelles/Elsene), rue Americaine 96 but also an interesting letter from De Panne, at the Belgian Coast near the French Border. They transformed two houses into a hotel and they did battlefield tours from De Panne to the Battlefields around Ieper/Ypres.

those houses has been transformed in a hotel.

letterhead hotel des Princes from Fernande Hartjens 19/08/1919
another view on the hotel
He received also letters from Hubert Stoefs who was helping him from te first Armistice Day in 1918.
letterhead Hubert Stoefs 23/01/1919
letterhead Hubert Stoefs 24/12/20

extract of the letter from Jacqueline Vanden Eeckhoudt, rue de l'abbaye 49 Brussel

Letterhead used by R. Milisse and Leonard ... from Brussels but with connections in Blaton

Paul Van Keer was a Belgian Soldier who wrote to him. I think he was related to one of the other families

Sunday, 5 January 2014