Friday, 7 October 2016

Waimakariri Pilgrim in Passchendaele with a mission!

The headstone of Mark Thompson

Mark William Thompson was the Great-uncle of Simon Marham who is Manager Strategy & Engagement in the Waimakariri District Council. Waimakariri is twinning with Zonnebeke/¨Passchendaele. The family was not aware of what happens to Mark Thompson, they did not know if he was commemorated or if he had a grave. Mark Thompson died on 5 October 1917, no 99 years and 2 days ago. He was in the second wave of the 4th of October attack on 's Graventafel during the Battle of Broodseinde, part of the Battle of Passchendaele. On his right hand side was 2nd Auckland with Dave Gallaher. When they had reached the Blue Line around 09.20 am, the attack was a huge success.

Simon Markham at the NZ Soldier in Mesen
They were ordered to do a new attack in the afternoon against Adler Farm. Adler Farm was heavy defended by German machine guns and it was impossible to take that position. New Zealand suffered some casualties and Mark was missing. The day after, on October the 5th, he was reported as killed in action.

the place where his body has been found in 1919/1920
In 1919-1920 his body has been found near the place of the attack, exhumed, positively identified from a field grave and reburied on Tyne Cot Cemetery. The family was not aware of that and nobody came from the Uttermost Ends of the Earth to pay his respect until today.
Simon told me that he has known his great-aunt very well and she was 101 when she died. She always spoke about her older brother who was killed in Passchendaele and she was asking him to come and find out what happens.
In the MMP1917, proud to be a Kiwi
Simon, paying his respect to his Great-uncle
Simon was here today, between a conference in the USA and a meeting in the UK for a couple of days in Brussels. It was a huge privilege to help him and the family with the research and to show him around today, from Messines to Passchendaele. It was alos an emotional day, especially for him but I have to acknowledge that it was also an emotional day for me too. I have passed hundreds, maybe thousand times his grave and never knew what happens with this Kiwi who got for the first time a visit from his family in New Zealand.

A heavy emotional moment, the first time in 99 years, a family member is touching the headstone

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