Waimakariri to Honour Battle of Passchendaele Centenary

Passchendaele CentenaryThe fallen of the disastrous First World War battle of Passchendaele will be formally remembered after Council today approved a request for the new Kaiapoi to Rangiora cycle/walkway to take the Belgian name.

After the approval was gained of both the Rangiora-Ashley and Kaiapoi-Tuahiwi Community Boards, Council signed off on a proposal which will see the path known as the ‘Passchendaele Memorial Cycle/Walkway’.

The cycle/walkway is one of two soon to be installed in the District, with this link on the other side of the railway line from Lineside Road.

Work is scheduled to start on the cycle/walk way later this year, and it will be followed by a similar one between Woodend and Rangiora which will get under way in 2018.

The move to name the Kaiapoi-Rangiora link celebrates the upcoming centenary of the battle, which saw New Zealand troops including some from the Waimakariri District – fight and die alongside their British, Australian and Canadian counterparts.

The 100-day battle on the Western front was the biggest tragedy in New Zealand military history.  In the attack on the first day, 845 New Zealanders lost their lives, more than any other in single event in our post-1840 history. Our fledgling nation shared in the 245,000 casualties sustained by the troops of the then British Empire during a futile attempt to break the four-year stalemate on the Western Front in Belgium and France.

Waimakariri has a special link to the battle, being twinned with the Belgian municipality of Zonnebeke, which includes the Passchendaele battlefield.

The link is supported locally by the Waimakariri-Passchendaele Trust, chaired by Mayor David Ayers.

Both the Trust and the council will be represented at the centenary commemorations in Belgium later in the year.

The Trust includes representation from both the Kaiapoi and Rangiora RSAs along with others.

Zonnebeke hosts a military history museum that is devoted to the events at Passchendaele and has proved a major attraction since it opened on ANZAC Day in 2004.

Such has been its popularity, last year saw its millionth visitor, with that honour falling to WDC employee Adrienne Smith during her visit to the battlefield.

Near the museum, there is also a visitor centre outside the famous Tyne Cot Cemetery where a large number of the dead were laid to rest.

The two sites are linked by the restored Ypres-Roulers railway across which visitors can retrace the attack of October 4, 1917.  

Between August 1914 and demobilisation in 1919, a total of 110,386 New Zealand men and women participated in the First World War.

This number represented 10 percent of a young nation whose population was 1,089,825 at the time.

Just shy of 20 percent of those who served made the ultimate sacrifice, with 18,166 killed and many more wounded.

Available download:

New Zealand Trail Brochure (pdf, 1.8 MB)