Come and See the Real Passchendaele

Waimakariri. Here is your chance to get up close and personal with the Passchendaele story by visiting the Air Force Museum at Wigram this month for the ‘Belgians Have Not Forgotten’ exhibition.

20170802_TemporaryTouringExhibitionThe Battle of Passchendaele, fought between July 31 and November 10 in 1917, was the bloodiest of the entire First World War.

There were in excess of 320,000 dead and wounded on the Allied side alone, for a territorial gain of just eight kilometres of ground before the battle finally ended.

Centenary commemorations are now underway around the world.

This includes in Canterbury, where the exhibition, devoted to the comradery, courage but ultimate futility of the battle, opens at the Air Force Museum on Monday.

It runs until August 27 and is being curated by the Waimakariri Passchendaele Trust.

The exhibition was created by the Memorial Museum Passchendaele, with funding and support from the Federal Government of Belgium, and is touring Australia and New Zealand as part of the centenary activities.

Photographs, movies, artwork and artefacts from the battlefields illustrate the war experience.

“Not everyone can get to Belgium so this [the exhibition] is an opportunity for the public to get along and learn a bit more about a battle that played a major role in shaping the New Zealand war experience,” Waimakariri Passchendaele Trust spokesperson Dave Adamson says.

“While Gallipoli rightly has a special place in our hearts as our national day, and is the story our children learn as their introduction to our military history, more of our soldiers actually died on the western front than in Turkey.

“So it’s important we don’t forget the sacrifice that New Zealanders made in Europe also. The Belgians certainly haven’t.”

As was the case for many other smaller communities around the country, the area now known as Waimakariri did not escape the tragedy of Passchendaele.

Our District is represented among the nearly 12,000 soldiers buried at the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world, at Tyne Cot in Zonnebeke.

Eight hundred and forty six of those died on one day alone, October 12, 1917, which is believed to be the most killed on a single day in New Zealand military history.

By the end of that day’s failed attack on the Bellevue Spur, 2740 Allied service men had been killed or wounded. 

It took two and a half days to clear the battlefield of the dead and injured.

Companies from Rangiora and Kaiapoi were among the Canterbury regiment that participated at Passchendaele, with seven soldiers from those groups known to have lost their lives during the campaign.

It is believed likely that there were others killed or wounded whose names were not recorded; such were the difficulties of keeping detailed records in such a tumultuous situation.

The historic Waimakariri linkage with Passchendaele was reinforced by the District’s ‘twinning’ with Zonnebeke; the Belgian town on the battlefield, that is home to the Memorial Museum, in 2007.

Delegations from the two Districts have visited each other since the twinning was formalised in 2007, and will do so again before the centenary commemoration of the October 12 battle takes place in Belgium.

The Belgians Have not Forgotten Exhibition

Tuesday 8 August – Sunday 27 August 2017

10.00am – 5.00pm

Free admission

Air Force Museum of New Zealand

T: 343-9532   

45 Harvard Ave, Wigram, Christchurch 8042