Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Honouring the New Zealand Cyclist Corps

the trophy

It was a freewheeling idea from Roger Dungan, a passionate cyclist from the NZ Embassy in Paris. He asked for help and the NZ Defence Attaché, Navy Captain Shaun Fogarty, brought us into the team.

 In the meantime Roger had contact with the directors of the Belgian Gent-Wevelgem organisation who were very interested in the story of the NZ Cyclist Corps. 
Roger knew about the cobblestones in Flanders and the cobblestone as a trophy in the Paris-Roubaix race. 
He was also aware of the fact that some New Zealand cyclists are competing in Belgium. 
HE Gregory Andrews
It was his idea to present a Mt Kemmel cobblestone to the Under-23 (year) cyclists in New Zealand as a trophy.

The New Zealand Cyclist Corps came to the war as part of II ANZAC, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.
An Army Corps was a military unit that consisted of four Divisions; one of those was the New Zealand Division.

The Cyclist Corps soldiers were part of II ANZAC but not
the Mayor of Heuvelland digging up the cobblestone

of the New Zealand Division. 

They were mostly used as reconnaissance troops, like the mounted rifles, and also to move quickly to places where soldiers were needed. They worked everywhere II ANZAC was.

Liz  Southey with Griet Langedock
In early 1918 the New Zealand Division moved to France but II ANZAC was still in Belgium and was deployed during the Spring Offensive in and around Kemmel (Heuvelland).

The NZDF Maori Cultural Group
On 13 April 1918 two companies of the NZ Cyclists were ordered to establish a defence line on its south-eastern slopes.
On 14 April the Germans’ successful advance on Nieuwkerke saw the cyclists reinforced by infantry retreating from this battle. The cyclists stayed in this line until 18 April when they were relieved by a French cavalry unit. 
During this time they were shelled by the Germans and suffered a number of casualties. 
Blessing of cobblestone and wood
On 18 April they took up a new position at nearby Vierstraat, about 7 km south-west of Ypres and on 25 April they were instructed to help fill a gap in the frontline there.

During these actions the cyclists suffered over 100 casualties, including 16 New Zealanders killed (90 bikes were destroyed by enemy shelling). 
Twelve NZ cyclists were awarded the Military Medal for their gallantry during the Kemmel / Vierstraat actions – including Sergeant F. C. Matthews, who was killed at Marfaux three months later.
Indigenous blessing
In total 63 cyclists were killed; 21 in Belgium, 38 in France, 2 died in New zealand and 2 in the UK. Lt. Colin Adison Dickeson MC died on 26 April  1918 and is buried on Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. Six are on the Messines Ridge Memorial and four are on Buttes New British Cemetery Memorial, all disappeared during the period at Kemmel/Vierstraat and are buried as an Unknown Solier or are still in the fields around this place. There is about 50% they are still in the fields.

We worked together with the Mayor of Heuvelland, Gent-Wevelgem, the NZ embassies in Belgium and France, NZDF and the NZDF Maori Cultural Group , Ngati Ranana and the town of Zonnebeke/Passchendaele.
Roger Dungan with Liz Southey (her father was a member of the NZCC)
The cobblestone came from Mount Kemmel, an iconic place in Belgium for cyclists. The NZCC certainly passed over that road. The cobblestone was placed on a piece of wood from a dugout beneath the Zonnebeke church that has been opened for the duration of the centennial of the Battle of Passchendaele during 103 days. This is a real artefact, more than 100 years old, from a WWI dugout.
All together
Dirk Vanhove from Cycling New Zealand

The trophy was presented to New Zealand on the evening of November 9 at an event in Heule/Kortrijk. It was handed over to the New Zealand Ambassador Gregory Andrews and the well-known New Zealand cyclist Jack Bauer.
Ngati Ranana members blessed the art-work before it left Belgium for its trip to New Zealand.
They also performed a haka to thank the organisers and all involved for such a great work in honouring and commemorating the New Zealand Cyclist Corps. The pictures you are seeing are from October 2017 when the cobblestone has been taken from Mt. Kemmel and has been blessed by the NZDF Maori Cultural Group. 

You can read more (in Dutch) and see a picture of the handing over from H.E. Gregory Andrews to Jack Bauer: http://www.gent-wevelgem.be/nl/voorstelling-80ste-editie
you can see a film about it here: ytgent_wevelgem

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Silent City Meets Living City - 7000+ attend the event/kwamen naar het evenement!

Nederlands na de Engelse versie:
see the ceremony here/herbekijk de ceremonie hier 
(c) photos Eric  Compernolle

First of all RESPECT for the people who attend this event.

On Saturday 14 October the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 and the municipality of Zonnebeke, with support from Toerisme Vlaanderen, organised ‘Silent City Meets Living City’ at CWGC Tyne Cot Cemetery. All the graves and names on the Tyne Cot Memorial were symbolically illuminated during this unique reflection moment with music, light, actors and personal stories. More than 7,000 people were present to remember the victims of the Battle of Passchendaele.

Important role for youth

'Silent City Meets Living City' is not a classic commemorative ceremony but a serene sound and light show in which more than 250 musicians and actors participated. The reflection moment started with a serene soundtrack during which about 100 people acted as the refugees and soldiers of 1917. A lot of children were also acting as refugees. A lot of youngsters participated in ‘Silent City Meets Living City’. A choir of 65 youngsters and two guitar players brought an acoustic version of ‘Passchendaele’ bu Iron Maiden. Two children from Passchendaele read the Ode of Remembrance and after the reading of letters from the ‘Passchendaele Archives’, boys and girls from each school of Groot-Zonnebeke laid flowers.

1917 versus 2017

Not only the participation of the youth was important during the reflection moment. The confrontation between 1917 and 2017 as also highlighted. Similar pictures taken in 1917 and 2017 were shown on big screens. Six actors also symbolised the situation in 1917 and 2017. Four of these actors were the people in the campaign image of ‘Silent City Meets Living City’. The little girl and soldier placed big candles on the Cross of Sacrifice whilst the music of the campaign movie played. After that more than 7,000 people raised their small candle for minutes. The reflection moment ended with the song ‘On the road to Passchendaele’, performed by a singer, saxophone player and pipers.
‘We never told people exactly what was going to happen during ‘Silent City Meets Living City’. We wanted to create special moments to make people aware that it is necessary that we never forget. Although there were more than 7,000 people present, it was extremely quiet. That silence was very impressive’, says Debbie Manhaeve, project coordinator MMP1917.
‘We often visit the CWGC Tyne Cot Cemetery and we only know it by its countless  gravestones. Yesterday we discovered a complete other place, full of living people standing  in front of these gravestones. We had another perception of what is called ‘giving your life for liberty’. This moment of sympathy and reflection stays etched in our memory, just like the names of these brave soldiers, such as our grandfather, who have been honoured during last night’s ceremony. We experienced  a unique moment in our life’, say Pierre and Elizabeth Rouvillois, relatives of Corporal George Frederick Warwick.

Allereerst RESPECT voor iedereen die aanwezig was op dit evenement.


Op zaterdag 14 oktober organiseerden het Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 en de gemeente Zonnebeke, met steun van Toerisme Vlaanderen ‘Silent City Meets Living City’. 

Tijdens dit unieke reflectiemoment met muziek, licht, figuratie en persoonlijke verhalen werden alle graven en namen van het vermistenmonument op CWGC Tyne Cot Cemetery symbolisch verlicht. Meer dan 7.000 mensen waren aanwezig om alle slachtoffers van de Slag bij Passendale te herdenken.

Jeugd speelt belangrijke rol

‘Silent City Meets Living City’ is geen klassieke herdenkingsplechtigheid maar een serene klank- en lichtvoorstelling waar meer dan 250 muzikanten en figuranten aan deelnamen. Zo startte het reflectiemoment met een ingetogen soundtrack waarbij een honderdtal figuranten de vluchtelingen en de soldaten in 1917 voorstelden. Opvallend was de aanwezigheid van kinderen bij de vluchtelingen. Heel wat jongeren vervulden ook een andere rol tijdens ‘Silent City Meets Living City’. Zo zongen 65 jongeren, onder begeleiding van twee gitaristen, een akoestische versie van ‘Passchendaele’ van Iron Maiden. Twee kinderen uit Passendale lazen de herdenkingsode voor en uit elke school van Groot-Zonnebeke legden kinderen bloemen neer nadat brieven uit de collectie van de ‘Passchendaele Archives’ werden voorgelezen.

Confrontatie tussen 1917 en 2017

Naast de medewerking en aanwezigheid van jongeren, werd ook het verleden en het heden in de verf gezet. Op de schermen verschenen gelijkaardige foto’s uit 1917 en 2017. Daarnaast stonden zes figuranten symbool voor  1917 en 2017. Vier van deze figuranten waren de mensen van het campagnebeeld van ‘Silent City Meets Living City’. Op de tonen van de promofilm plaatsten het meisje en de soldaat twee kaarsen op de ‘Cross of Sacrifice’ waarna de meer dan 7.000 aanwezigen minutenlang hun lichtje in de lucht hielden. Een zangeres, saxofonist en pipers sloten het reflectiemoment af met het lied ‘On the road to Passchendaele’.
‘We zijn altijd wat vaag gebleven omtrent wat er precies tijdens ‘Silent City Meets Living City’ zou gebeuren. Dit omdat we de mensen kippenvelmomenten wilden bezorgen om hen zo nog meer te doen stilstaan over waarom het zo belangrijk is dat we blijven herdenken. Hoewel er meer dan 7.000 mensen op de begraafplaats waren, was het een uur lang stil. Die stilte was heel indrukwekkend’, aldus Debbie Manhaeve, projectco√∂rdinator 14-18 van het MMP1917.
Wij bezoeken dikwijls het CWGC Tyne Cot Cemetery en kennen het enkel door zijn ontelbare grafstenen. Gisteren troffen we een heel ander beeld aan. Veel mensen stonden met een kaarsje bij diezelfde grafstenen. Dat veranderde ons idee  van ‘zijn leven geven voor de vrijheid’.Het was een moment van gedeelde reflectie dat voor altijd in ons geheugen gegrift zal blijven, net als de naam van de dappere soldaten, waaronder onze grootvader, die tijdens de ceremonie van gisterenavond herdacht werden. We hebben een eenmalige en unieke ervaring meegemaakt’, aldus Pierre en Elizabeth Rouvillois, familie van Corporal George Frederick Warwick.