The New Zealand Nationals Service Commemorating The 100the Anniversary of The Battle of Passchendaele 12 october 2017 - Passendale - 12/10/2017
Passchendaele has become a byword for the horror of the Great War. Fought between 31 July and 2 December 1917 in appalling conditions, the aim was the capture of the Passchendaele Ridge, followed by a strategic breakthrough.
No breakthrough was achieved, and frequent heavy rain, beginning on 1 August, turned the battlefield into a morass which men, equipment and animals often sank without trace.

When the New Zealand Division entered the battle in early October 1917 there were still high hopes for success. The attack, on 4 October, with the Gravenstafel Spur as its objective, was a stunning success, although with the cost of 1,600 casualties of which some 500 had been either killed or mortally wounded. Because the British commander-in-chief, Sir Douglas Haig, concluded that a knockout blow was within grasp if the enemy were given no time to re-organise. The timing for the next attack was brought forward, but this attack conducted by British and Australian troops was not a success, but a renewed assault on 12 October was ordered. The objective for the New Zealanders was the rising ground at Bellevue Spur.  

At 5.25 on the morning of October 12 the attack began in heavy rain and strong winds with a weak and erratic Allied artillery barrage that failed to have any effect on German machine-gun fire. 
Adding to the problem was the fact that the artillery were unable to follow up because of the conditions - it was virtually impossible to move the heavy guns forward and every shot they fired caused the guns to sink deeper into the mud. Neither the barbed wire system, nor the effective bunker system at Bellevue could be destroyed.
New Zealand progress across the valley was slow with soldiers trying to move through mud that was up to waist-deep. By 6 am it was already clear that the infantry could not advance much further. At the same time the artillery barrage had moved and they were left fighting the German machine-gun posts with rifles.
Once across the mud, groups of men attempted to crawl under the uncut, undamaged barbed wire and were killed in their hundreds. Some made it through the first zone, but were beaten by the second where they lost their lives to even more unremitting machine-gun fire.
In the end what remained of the two brigades which had led the attack in the New Zealand Division's sector were forced to dig in behind the barbed wire. In less than four hours more than 60% of the New Zealanders who had taken part had become casualties - over 2800 soldiers were killed, wounded or listed as missing, the worst day ever in New Zealand history.

At 12.45 pm there was an order to reorganise and recommence the attack at 3 pm, an order that was later withdrawn. During the afternoon, another order came to regroup after sunset and fall back into defensive positions. By 9 pm this had been completed in the driving rain and cold wind. 
Recovering the New Zealand wounded from the battlefield took two and a half days days, even with 3,000 extra men from the Fourth Brigade, artillery and other units plus a battalion from the British 49th Division. The conditions were horrendous and six men were needed to carry each stretcher because of the mud and water. The Germans suffered the same problems and an informal truce for stretcher-bearers came into force, although anyone without a stretcher was fired on. By the evening of October 14 there simply was no one left alive on the battlefield.
Not only was clearing the battlefield of the wounded a difficult, exhausting task, but the injured then had to be carried much further to regimental dressing stations because the field ambulances were unable to get through.

The impact on the Division and on families at home in New Zealand was devastating. It took many months to rebuild the confidence of the soldiers, while in New Zealand people began to question the scale of their sacrifice. Few believed that New Zealand could ever withstand another Passchendaele.

Now, 100 years later, this event was commemorated at Tyne Cot Cemetery, where 198 named and 322 unknown New Zealanders are buried. 1,166 New Zealanders are commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing.

After the Catafalque Guard mounted the NZ Memorial Wall to the Missing, the Belgian Flag Bearers marched into position.

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Arrival of the Official Party led by the Maori Cultural Group.

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Parading of the Regimental Colours: The Regimental Colour of the 4the Otago Southland Battalion carried by 2/4 Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment and The Regimental Colour of the 6the Hauraki Battalion carried by 3/6 Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.

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The National Anthem of the Kingdom of Belgium sung by Leading Aircraftsman Barbara Graham (Royal New Zealand Air Force Band).

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The National Anthem of New Zealand sung by Sergeant David Fiu (New Zealand Army Band -Maori) and Able Musician Rebecca Nelson (New Zealand Army Band).

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Opening Prayer by Chaplain Class 3 Hamish Kirk (Royal New Zealand Chaplains' Department).

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Commemorative Address by the Right Honourable David Carter, MP (Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives).

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Waiata performed by the New Zealand Defence Force Maori Cultural Group, the vocalists and the band.

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Address His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge, representing Her Majesty The Queen of New Zealand.

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Waiata performed by the New Zealand Defence Force Maori Cultural Group, the vocalists and the band.

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Address by Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid of Belgium, representing the Kingdom of Belgium.

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The Weight of Command by Lieutenant General Tim Keating, MNZM (Chief of Defence Force New Zealand).

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Poppy and Pohutukawa performed by Sergeant David Fiu and Able Musician Rebecca Nelson accompanied by the band.

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Youth Readings by:
Brecht Hoflack, representing the youth of Belgium.

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Jonathan Delhaes, representing the youth of the Federal Republic of Germany.

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Keeley Grevatt, representing the youth of New Zealand.

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Prayer for Peace by Chaplain Class 3 Hamish Kirk (Royal New Zealand Chaplains' Department).

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Wreath Laying at the New Zealand Memorial Wall to the Missing by:
Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid of Belgium together with His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge.

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The Right Honourable David Carter, Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives on behalf of the People of New Zealand togheter with Mr. Paul Breyne, Commissioner-General for the Commemoration of the First World War on behalf of the Belgian Federal Goverment and Mrs. Cindy Verbrugge in name of Minister-President of Flanders Mr. Geert Bourgeois.

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Lieutenant General Tim Keating, Chief of Defence Force and Mrs. Brenada Keating on behalf of the men and women of the New Zealand Defence Force and thier families togheter with Vice Admiral Michel Hofman, Vice Chief of Defence Belgium.

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Vice Admiral Sir Tim Lawrence, Vice Chairman of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission togheter with Mr. BJ Clark, National President of the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association and Willie Apiata, VC, on behalf of all veterans and their families.

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The Youth Representatives of the Kingdom of Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany and New Zealand.

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The Commemoration and the Ode by:
Leading Electronics Technician Codi Wehi-Ngatai in Maori.

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Mr. BJ Clark, SQM, National President of the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association in English.

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During The Last Post, the flags of the Kingdom of Belgium and of New Zealand were lowered.

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Silence and Rouse, the flags of the Kingdom of Belgiium and of New Zealand were raised to their full-mast position.
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The Benediction (dismissal) by Chaplain Class 3 Hamish Kirk (Royal New Zealand Chaplains' Department).

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The Regimental Colours marched out followed by the Royal Party.

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The tree Yought Ambassadors planted a tree at the new revealed Noa Tapuwae sign.

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At the same time the Catafalque Guard dismounted and the Belgium Flag Bearers marched out.

Page made by IDG en Filip Van Loo.
(*) Pictures provided by The New Zealand Defence Force.