New Zealand Honours Belgians one hundred years on
13/11/2018 - Zonnebeke - Source: Freddy Declerck
They helped New Zealand and Allied Soldiers in enemy territory

On the 15th November 2018 at 6:30 pm in Brussels, the New Zealand Ambassador to Belgium, H. E. Gregory Andrews, is hosting a reception to honour members of the civilian underground movement in World War One Belgium. They have been identified as a result of research for a new book by New Zealander Dr. Kenneth Baker, who will also be present. So too will many descendants of those people who helped New Zealand and Allied soldiers who escaped German imprisonment and found themselves marooned in occupied territory. Most of the descendants had no knowledge of their forbears’ brave and heroic actions.

The book, "The Obscure Heroes of Liberty" reveals the extent and depth of the so-called "Prisoner Help Network" as well as names of the over one thousand three hundred very brave Belgians in the network, where they lived and what they did. Several had known and worked with the legendary Edith Cavell, the British nurse prior to her execution in Brussels in 1915. A very large proportion of those in the underground network were women.

The book is based on the memoirs of a New Zealand soldier, Bert Hansen, as well as other soldiers who were helped in occupied Belgium. In-depth research in Belgium, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany and New Zealand allowed the story of the brave civilians, 'The Obscure Heroes', to be uncovered and also the extensive network behind them.

In 1922, the British Government honoured the members of the underground prisoner help network with the "Allied Subjects Award".

Further background information is available at

The Author: Dr. Kenneth M. Baker

Ken Baker, a chemist by training, was born in New Zealand and educated at Ellerslie School, Penrose High School (now One Tree Hill College) and Auckland University where he obtained his M.Sc (Hons) and Ph.D degrees. With several Research Fellowships in hand, he attended Cambridge University and was a member of Emmanuel College and a University Teacher in Organic Chemistry and a College Tutor in chemistry.

Dr. Baker pursued a long career in senior corporate management and is Chairman of the World Agricultural Forum. He has also acted as Chairman of many Business groups, public sector bodies and Government Committees and given evidence to various Government enquiries on the role of science in public policy.

One of his side interests has always been family history and the First World War. His interest was sparked over many years because of living in Belgium where many of his relatives fought and where so many of the New Zealand dead from the war are interred.

Dr. Baker is the author of many scientific and policy publications and has given numerous speeches and presentations on science and research, business management, public policy and New Zealand history.