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