Horror of Passchendaele graphically portrayed

October 3rd, 2007  

Topic: Horror of Passchendaele graphically portrayed

The horror of Passchendaele is graphically portrayed on a new website that explores the impact on New Zealanders of one of the World War 1's most tragic battles.

This Thursday marks the beginning of week-long commemorations in Belgium of the Battle of Passchendaele.
The battle began with a successful assault on a spur on October 4 1917 that nevertheless cost the lives of more than 320 New Zealanders.
It ended in a devastating defeat on the October 12.
In just two hours 845 men were either dead or mortally wounded, of more than 2700 New Zealand casualties.
Historians at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage have written and designed an extensive section on www.nzhistory.net.nz featuring archival film, photos, stories and oral histories on what is regarded as New Zealand's worst military disaster.
The ministry's chief historian, Dr Bronwyn Dalley, said the impact of the battle on New Zealand reached far beyond the individuals involved.
"One in four New Zealand men aged between 20 and 45 died in the Great War, the majority in France and Belgium. Our work revealed how the tragic events had left deep scars on communities, families, workplaces and schools," she said.
The ministry's research team found a stark illustration of this among the archives at Wellington College. A small school by today's standard, it lost 222 old boys and the headmaster wrote letters of condolence to each of their families.
"Some of the men who showed the most endurance were the stretcher-bearers. At Passchendaele four of them would carry a stretcher three miles to safety taking about four hours. The website has some very moving first-hand accounts of their ordeal.
"We are very grateful to all the individuals and organisations who allowed us to delve into their archives or shared personal family stories. Because of their generosity we have been able to tell a social history that contributes to our understanding of how we have developed as a people," said Dr Dalley.
The website also contains additional resources and activities for schools, especially in relation to the NCEA 2 History curriculum.
October 4th, 2007  

Topic: Kiwis remember Passchendaele

Scores of Kiwis, including veterans and All Black fans following the World Cup, have gathered near the Belgian village of Passchendaele to mark the 90th anniversary of the bloodiest battle in New Zealand's history.
PM wants more prominence given to Passchendaele... View video

Services were held at several venues around West Flanders, in Belgium, to commemorate the two battles of the Passchendaele campaign, which began on October 4, 1917.
The second assault, on October 12, was the worst death rate in a single day for New Zealand, with 845 killed, many more missing presumed dead and hundreds dying later of their wounds. More than 2000 more were wounded in both assaults.
The commemorations early this morning (NZT) were marked by the signing of an agreement between New Zealand and the Flemish regional government that requires both parties to preserve the cemeteries, memorials and historic sites from the battle.
The agreement formalises work which already occurs, but is designed to ensure that the memories of the bloodshed of World War I do not fade with time.
It was signed by Prime Minister Helen Clark and Flemish Foreign Policy Minister Geert Bourgeois after a moving ceremony at the Tyne Cot cemetery, built on a key strategic objective during the campaign.
Nearly 12,000 white headstones - 520 of them belonging to Kiwis - stretch out in rows for several acres across the site.
A memorial wall lists the names of 34,857 men who died, but whose graves are unknown. More than 1100 were Kiwis.
Miss Clark said the second Passchendaele battle had been overshadowed by Gallipoli and the Somme, but it was a "byword for disaster" and should be remembered for the horror it was.
"Our soldiers were bombarded by their own guns on the start line. The planned artillery barrage failed to provide the necessary support. Uncut wire barred the way forward. Enemy machine gunners cut a swathe through our division's ranks."
"But Passchendaele is also a byword for courage and adversity. It speaks of people bravely doing their duty as their comrades around them were being cut down, of desperate efforts to advance under a merciless hail of machine gun bullets, of stretcher bearers struggling to extricate the wounded lying in the quagmire."
Yesterday's ceremonies were also attended by Defence Force chief Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae, several veterans from later conflicts who had relatives at Passchendaele, Australian Governor General Michael Jeffrey and members of the Australian army.
Ceremonies were also held at the Graventafel memorial, the site of the October 4 fighting, and at Messines.