Friday, 20 May 2016

CDF New Zealand visit Belgium and pays his respect to forgotten New Zealand soldiers.

On invitation of General Gerard VAN CAELENBERGE, CDF of the Belgian Forces Lt.General Timothy KEATING, CDF of the New Zealand Forces was on a official visit in Belgium.
LtGen Tim Keating at Coxyde Cemetery

There was also some quality time during the visit and they choose to visit a place that was almost forgotten in history.
It's the story of the 2nd Brigade of the New Zealand Artillery in the Field. In this article you can read a summary of that story.


On the cemetery there are 19 victims of WWI and 1victim of WWII (Lt Orchiston , RNZAF) buried from the New Zealand Forces, there is also an New Zealander who was serving with the Australian Artillery and one who served in a UK regiment. Lt Gen Keating and his staff payed their respect to every individual New Zealand grave and together with General Van Caelenberge they each lay a wreath for all 1517 victims from WWI and the 155 victims of WWII.

This CWGC-cemetery is the most important at the Belgian Coast and is just near the barracks of the Air Force Base of Coxyde (these days known as Koksijde).

It is known that Coxyde was a resting place for the soldiers, about 10 km behind the frontline - but often shelled - were they could bury their death during the night.  

This is a picture of a battlefield map with German defence transparent over google earth map, the British sector was from the sea till St Joris/St George.
CWGC Coxyde marks the place of the cemetery.

Summary of the story of the 2nd Brigade NZ Artillery in the Field

After the battle of Messines till the first days of December, 1917, the 2nd Brigade was in action on the Belgian coast, where, about the end of June, British troops had relieved the French on the sector from St. Georges to the sea. This relief was effected in accordance with an arrangement by which the French should take part in the Third Battle of Ypres, by extending the British flank northwards beyond Boesinghe, on the left of the 5th Army.
 The enemy had a strong concentration of artillery who was aggressive during the period July to mid-November.
From 10 July the Brigade marched off for the coast to go into the line near Nieuport. They came in Coxyde on 13 July 1917.
On arrival at Coxyde the batteries were ordered to go into the line next day. The positions were situated on the sand dunes, and guns fired across the Yser Canal. There was heavy shelling every day. The flat country afforded very little cover; and by the end of July the brigade had suffered a good many casualties, six other ranks having been killed and two officers and twenty-six other ranks wounded.
Ammunition and rations were brought up by the road from Oostduinkerke. It was almost continually under fire. Bad weather was experienced in the early part of August, and much discomfort was caused, by the heavy rains; the flats became flooded, increasing the difficulties of transport, and the gun-pits in the low-lying dunes were under water for some time. In digging the pits, water was generally struck about two feet below the surface of the ground, and it was accordingly a case of building up rather than digging in. The 6th (Howitzer) Battery experienced a bad day on the 12th, when three of its guns were put out of action, and on the following day Brigade Headquarters and the vicinity were shelled with what were afterwards discovered to be 17in. shells from one of the big coast guns along by Ostend.
At the close of the month the personnel at the guns was withdrawn for rest situated in particularly pleasant quarters in the sand dunes at Coxyde-les-Bains. During this brief spell all ranks were able to enjoy bathing and football on the beach nearby, which was also used for exercising the horses. The town of La Panne, with some civilian population and open shops, was within easy distance.
On September 2nd the Brigade went into action again. The enemy kept his guns aggressively active. Brigade Headquarters and battery positions were shelled both day and night, and on fine nights the back areas were bombed. Casualties in the brigade during the month totalled thirty-three.
October, ushered in with broken weather, and "shell storms" were of frequent occurrence. During severe shelling on the 8th the 2nd Battery had seven casualties, one of the two who were killed being 2nd Lieutenant T.S. Grant, who had only that day joined the unit, after passing through an Officers' Training College in England.
French troops commenced to take over the sector again in November, and on the 17th of that month a brigade of French Field Artillery marched in to relieve the 2nd New Zealand Brigade. The following day the French batteries conducted their registrations under covering fire from the New Zealand batteries, and on the 20th the relief was complete
The column marched out at Coxyde at 3 a.m. on the 21st November.