On 12 October 2017, New Zealand marks 100 years since its participation in the World War One Battle of Passchendaele, a disaster that still ranks as the “darkest day” for the South Pacific country. Events on 11 and 12 October to mark the centenary include New Zealand’s National Commemorative Service at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Zonnebeke and a cultural event featuring a ceremonial Māori waka at Ieper’s Menin Gate.
A century ago at Passchendaele, New Zealand suffered the greatest loss of life in a single day in its modern history – with some 960 men dead or mortally wounded in a few short hours.
New Zealand’s population was only 1 million people at the time of the war. Some 100,000 New Zealanders – 10% of the total population and half of the working age male population – voyaged to the other side of the globe to fight. Of these, around 60% would become casualties, and nearly 20% would never return home. For New Zealand, this experience had a profound effect on our young country, and shaped the commitment to peace and security that we uphold to this day.
One hundred years on, New Zealanders will again voyage to Belgium, to remember those who fought and to celebrate our modern friendship with Belgium and with Europe.
On 11 October
at 1900hrs in Ieper, an event underscoring New Zealand’s voyaging history, our unique cultural identity, and our experience at Passchendaele will be held at the Menin Gate. It will feature the arrival of a Māori ceremonial waka (canoe) and a video projection onto the Ieper ramparts. The event will have strong Māori cultural elements, underscoring the important role Māori played in WWI and their status as tangata whenua (people of the land) of New Zealand. It will highlight that, while 100 years ago New Zealand soldiers came “from the Uttermost Ends of the Earth”, today New Zealand and Europe are closer than ever. This event will precede the traditional Menin Gate Last Post Ceremony, featuring a large contingent from the New Zealand Defence Force and a performance by New Zealand music legend Dave Dobbyn.
This event is organised in close partnership with the City of Ieper and with the support of the Government of Flanders.
Then, on 12 October
, New Zealand will mark the Battle of Passchendaele with two services. The first, at 1100hrs, will be the New Zealand National Commemorative Service at Tyne Cot Cemetery, resting place of over 500 New Zealanders, and where 1166 New Zealanders are commemorated on the New Zealand Memorial to the Missing. This Service will include the New Zealand Defence Force contingent, a group of youth ambassadors from New Zealand, and see the participation of a number of VIPs. At 1915hrs a special Sunset Ceremony at Buttes New British Cemetery will tell the New Zealand story of Passchendaele and bring the day, and New Zealand’s Passchendaele commemorations programme, to a close.
These events are organised in close partnership with the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 and the town of Zonnebeke.
11 October 2017
12 October 2017
- 1900: Video projection and waka event at the Menin Gate, Ieper
- 2000: New Zealand-focused Last Post service at the Menin Gate.
- 1100: National Service commemorating New Zealand’s participation in the Battle of Passchendaele, Tyne Cot Cemetery
- 1500: Opening of the New Zealand Memorial Poppy Garden, Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, Zonnebeke (led by the New Zealand Passchendaele Society and Memorial Museum Passchendaele)
- 1600: Tree Planting in the “Wood of Peace”, Polygon Wood, Zonnebeke (coordinated by the Memorial Museum Passchendaele);
- 1915: Sunset Service, Buttes New British Cemetery