Commemorations to mark one of New Zealand’s darkest days will be held in New Zealand and Belgium this month to remember the Battle of Passchendaele.
Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry says the commemorative programme reflects on New Zealand’s involvement in the fighting around Passchendaele between 1 and 18 October 1917.
“Passchendaele on 12 October 1917 is still known as one of the greatest disasters in New Zealand’s history – when 843 men died in a single day. This devastating loss of life remains the highest one-day death toll suffered by New Zealand forces overseas,” Ms Barry says.
“During the Third Battle of Ypres, which included Passchendaele, New Zealand lost nearly 2,000 men. We’ll remember them and all who fought in Belgium.”
In Wellington the commemorations will begin at 3pm on October 12 at the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park.
“Immediately after the national ceremony, a memorial gifted to New Zealand by the Belgian Government will be unveiled on the eastern terraces at the Park. The Last Post will be held at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at 5pm,” Ms Barry says.
“The ceremony in Belgium will take place at 11am local time at the Tyne Cot Cemetery near Zonnebeke and will be attended by His Royal Highness , the Duke of Cambridge on behalf of the Queen and Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid of Belgium on behalf of King Philippe.”
New Zealand will be represented by Hon Dr Nick Smith and Rt Hon David Carter.
“This is the largest Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery in the world and contains the graves of 520 New Zealanders. Our ‘Memorial to the Missing’ in the cemetery lists the names of others who died in the Battles of Passchendaele,” Ms Barry says.
The New Zealand Passchendaele Centennial Memorial and Garden in Belgium will also be opened as part of the commemorations at 3pm local time.
“I want to commend Chris Mullane, Mike Pritchard and many others from the Passchendaele Society in New Zealand, who’ve worked so hard over so many years to have this memorial garden built. I planted the first flax there in 2016 and I know it is a fitting memorial telling our poignant New Zealand story’” Ms Barry says.
Ceremonies will conclude at sunset at Buttes New British Cemetery in Polygon Wood where 95 Kiwis are buried and where the New Zealand ‘Memorial to the Missing’ records the names of 388 New Zealanders who died near there but have no known grave.
“A group of senior secondary school students, who won the joint Ministry of Education, Fields of Remembrance Trust and the Passchendaele Society digital competition, will be attending the commemorations in Belgium. They will also attend the New Zealand Memorial and Garden,” Ms Barry says.
More information about both the domestic and overseas Passchendaele commemorations can be found at ww100.govt.nz/passchendaele-centenary.