Saturday, 13 August 2016

Major Norman Annabell NZ Engineers, a pilgrimage

Major N. Annabell M.C.
The Crossman Family from New Zealand  was doing a battlefield tour in the trail of their (Great)- Grandfather MajorNorman Annabell from Wanganui who earned the Military Cross for distinguished service in the field and was mentioned in dispatches For exceptional efficiency as Adjutant, New Zealand Engineers during the period under consideration – 26th February, 1917 to 20th September, 1917, which included the long and trying preparations for the Battle of Messines…”

It was a very moving visit for his Granddaughter Mrs Crossman, who came with her husband and her son David with his family.
Her son, Commander David Crossman  is the New Zealand Naval Advisor in London, He was doing the pilgrimage together with his parents, his wife Vicky, his kids and his Goddaughter.

Major Norman Annabell was a civil engineer and surveyor and served with the NZ Engineers, he has been with the 2nd Field Company but most of his time at the front he was attached to the NZ Headquarters.
He had a great deal in the preparation for Messines but was also in Passchendaele and during the winter of 1917-1918 in Polygon Wood.
Norman Annabell took this photo in Ypres/Ieper
During this period the the New Zealand Engineers build concrete baby elephant shelters in and around Polygon Wood. Till today you can visit two of those concrete shelters in Polygon Wood. Those are the only known structures build by New Zealanders on the Western Front  are still there.

Norman Annabell wrote the foreword for the  “Official History of the New Zealand Engineers During the Great War 1914-1919 “ .
He was also a good photographer and some of his pictures are in this official history of the NZ Engineers.

He has been serious ill in hospital in November 1915 and a second time ill with influenza in a hospital in the UK in February 1919.

Mrs Crossman, Granddaughter of Norman Annabell with her Granddaughter visiting the bunker that has been build by the NZ Engineers.
the Crossman Family at another NZ concrete shelter in Polygon Wood
He served 4 years and 103 days during WWI with 3 years and 322 days overseas. He was finally discharged 28/05/1919.
He was doing the whole NZ campaign from Gallipoli over Egypt, France and Belgium till the  end of the war!
As so many other soldiers, he was not talking about the war at home.  Only to his Granddaughter he explained his medals when she was asking for it, but when she was asking what he has done to receive those medals, he said he doesn’t want to talk about it because to many young men died during the war.

the Crossman Family at the New Zealand Soldier in Messines.

As I said already he was well educated and he was aware of the sacrifice of his country  who lost a whole generation during WWI.
The families pilgrimage was not only in the trace of the New Zealanders as we normally do but also following the Nga Tapuwae  signs in the landscape to learn about the different battles and with a formal visit to the German cemetery to pay their respect to those soldiers who were 100 years ago the enemy for their (Great)-Grandfather.