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New Zealand Veterans Remember Passchendaele


New Zealand Veterans Remember Passchendaele

Ten veterans from as far afield as Kamo to Geraldine travelled to Belgium recently to attend a number of ceremonies to mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele.

Douglas Froggatt from Tauranga places a poppy on the grave of a friend's relative at Underhill Farm Cemetery in Belgium

The Battle of Passchendaele on October 12 1917 was the most tragic day in New Zealand's military history; in just two hours more than 2800 men were killed, wounded or listed as missing in action.

The veterans delegation were among a large gathering of New Zealanders including the Prime Minister Helen Clark, who attended a special Anzac service held at Tyne Cot cemetery, October 4 to mark the 90th anniversary of Passchendaele.

While in Belgium the group have a programme of activities which includes battlefield tours, visits to significant New Zealand gravesites and watching a commemorative rugby match between the London New Zealand team and an invitation French team.

On Saturday the group visited Longueval and Caterpillar Valley cemetery where the Unknown Warrior was brought from to New Zealand.

World War Two veteran Douglas Froggatt (85) of Tauranga said the trip had been very thought provoking causing him to ask what was it all for. He said, "I am impressed at how well the gravesites are tended. New Zealand has left a permanent mark here."

He enjoyed visiting the sites where New Zealand Victoria Cross (VC) recipients earned their medals and would like to fit in a visit to a unique headstone of a British double VC winner.

Mr Froggatt served in Italy and Egypt in WWII in the Taranaki Regiment. He fought in the Battle of Cassino and the Battle for Florence where he was wounded in the leg. He returned to New Zealand on the hospital ship Maunganui.

The delegation returned to New Zealand on October 10.

ENDS

BACKGROUND

The name Passchendaele is synonymous with images of sinking mud, shell holes filled with water, and vast expanse of barren wasteland.

The Third Battle of Ypres, also known as Passchendaele, was one of the major battles of World War I, fought by British, ANZAC and Canadian soldiers against the German Army in 1917. The aim of the battle was to break through the German defences and capture Passchendaele Ridge then drive north to the Belgian coast and capture the German submarine bases there. After three months of fierce fighting the town was finally taken by the Canadian forces, but the allies suffered almost half a million casualties, and the Germans almost a quarter of a million.

Allied soldiers who lost their lives at Passchendaele are commemorated at the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing and at the Tyne Cot and neighbouring Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries. Tyne Cot is the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in the world with nearly 12,000 graves, including 519 New Zealanders, 322 of them unidentified.

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