Belgium New Zealand WWI Passchendaele

Lester Mason
October 13, 2017

Hundreds gathered at Wellington's Pukeahu National War Memorial for the centenary commemorations of one of New Zealand's greatest military disasters; The Battle of Passchendaele; often referred to as the country's darkest day.

"Half a world away, news of the losses was felt like a shockwave". Entire communities were robbed of their young people. Children look on as New Zealand soldier carries a poppy wreath during a commemoration ceremony of the WWI Battle of Passchendaele at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium on Wednesday, Oct.

October 12 1917 has become known as the darkest day of the war for the New Zealand Division, which suffered heavy loses when they were ordered to take an area called Bellevue Spur but were bogged down in shell holes under enemy fire.

"We all go to ANZAC Day and we attend commemorations and services at our our own urupa at home but to come to something like this so far away from home and to see the love and care that, not just the locals but of course the dignitaries bring to occasions like this, is something truly awesome", says Peeni Henare.

Prince William lays a wreath at the New Zealand Memorial Wall to the Missing.

Today's commemoration is being held at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium's Western Front - the world's largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery.

There was a ceremonial welcome from the Maori Cultural Group of the New Zealand Defence Force.

He also shared a hongi with Willie Apiata, New Zealand's only living Victoria Cross recipient and even used a Māori phrase in closing his address.

"Since then, four more generations of my own family have been drawn repeatedly to this place to honour those who fought and those who died".

Members of the 90-strong New Zealand Defence Force Contingent in Belgium for the commemoration.

"Kia mau mahara tonu tātou ki a rātou".

The Duke, who represented the Queen at the event in Belgium, was joined by the country's Princess Astrid and delivered his speech at Tyne Cot cemetery, near the town of Ypres in Flanders.

Kiwi music legend Dave Dobbyn has performed a lovely version of his classic song, Welcome Home, at Passchendaele commemorations this morning, filling the grounds of a Belgian war memorial with the sounds of New Zealand.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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