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Gov-Gen visits Belgium for Passchendaele Commemorn

Media release
6 July 2007

Governor-General visits Belgium for Passchendaele Commemoration

The Governor-General of New Zealand, the Honourable Anand Satyanand, will honour the thousands of New Zealanders who lost their lives or were injured during the Battle of Passchendaele when he visits Belgium next week.

On October 12 1917, in what is now known as the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), more than 800 New Zealanders died and more than 2,000 wounded in one morning alone. It was the most disastrous day in New Zealand’s military history. The battle had begun the previous July and the ruins of Passchendaele were eventually captured by Canadian forces. New Zealand forces remained in the area until 12 April 1918.

On Thursday July 12, the Governor-General and Her Excellency Susan Satyanand will represent New Zealand at the 90th anniversary commemorations being held at Tyne Cot cemetery, the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in the world. The Governor General will also privately lay a wreath in the New Zealand Apse (part of the cemetery’s Memorial to the Missing). The battle was initially scheduled to begin on July 12, although did not actually begin until 31 July.

They will also attend the inauguration of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Memorial and the Official Opening of the Tyne Cot Visitors Centre by Queen Paola of Belgium, and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. They will also meet the Mayor of Ieper (Ypres in French), Luc Dehaene and take part in a special Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate, Ieper, where His Excellency will lay a wreath.

On Friday 13 July, Their Excellencies will visit the New Zealand Memorial at Mesen and tour the Messines Ridge Battlefield with noted New Zealand military historian, Dr Christopher Pugsley, who is a Senior Lecturer in War Studies at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. At noon, the Governor-General will unveil a work of art by Kingsley Baird, who is the first New Zealander to be the Artist-in-Residence at the In Flanders Field Museum in Ieper. Mr Baird also designed the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Wellington. They will also visit and lay a wreath at the New Zealand Memorial at ‘s-Graventafel, which is on the site of the Passchendaele battlefield.

The Governor-General said the Battle of Passchendaele stood alongside the Gallipoli Campaign as a landmark point in New Zealand’s history.

“The Battle of Passchendaele was one of the bloodiest battles of World War I and October 12 1917 was the most disastrous in New Zealand’s military history. Given that New Zealand’s population at that time was little over a quarter of what it is today, the thousands of deaths and injuries suffered made an indelible mark on New Zealand society. As with ANZAC Day, the Passchendaele Commemorations are an opportunity to remember and to pay tribute to those who so bravely served their country.”


ENDS

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