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Passchendaele Exhibition Makes Final Tribute

For immediate release

12 November 2009

New Zealanders are encouraged to seize the last opportunity to view a moving exhibition in honour of those who fought bravely in the Battle of Passchendaele – and to attend a final ceremony to close commemorative events in North Shore City.

Passchendaele: ‘The Belgians Have Not Forgotten’ will receive its last Kiwi visitors on Sunday (November 15), eight months since the exhibition’s tour of the country began. It will then return to the Passchendaele Memorial Museum in Belgium, from where it has come.

Since it opened in March more than 25,000 visitors have viewed the exhibition. It has toured Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Featherston, Waiouru and Fort Takapuna in North Shore City, where it has been on show since 4 October.

Exhibition tour manager, Jo Kane says the exhibition has helped to raise awareness of the tragic battle.

“New Zealand was such a tiny nation at the time of the First World War and we lost so many people on the Western Front, that the battles had a profound effect on the social fabric of our country - yet, few people spoke of the tragedy. This exhibition has given many Kiwis the opportunity to remember their family members and consider the sacrifice of our countrymen.

“It has also been a wonderful example of the relationship forged between New Zealand and Belgium – a bond that started all those years ago, when our people fought for their country, and a bond that continues today,” she says.

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Following the closure on Sunday, a blessing ceremony will be held at dawn on Monday 16 November.

The 5,000 white crosses, erected outside the Fort in remembrance of the New Zealanders lost in Belgium during the First World War, will be removed at this time and given new homes.

North Shore exhibition organiser and former Honorary Consul of Belgium, Iain MacKenzie says members of the community who have named one of the crosses, or have an ancestor lost at war they would like to remember, are welcome to collect a cross at the final ceremony.

“To ensure the crosses are well cared for in the long term we are welcoming members of the community, who would like to remember lost loved ones, to give the crosses a meaningful home.

“A significant number of the crosses will also be sent on request to RSAs across the country, who would like to remember the New Zealand casualties from their localities.”

At the dawn ceremony, 50 white doves will be released by students of Vauxhall Primary School in memory of the fallen, and laments will also be played by a bugler and piper.

His Worship the Mayor of North Shore City, Andrew Williams, says the ceremony is a fitting way to end the series of events that have taken place in North Shore City since October 4, for the anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele.

“The sacrifice of our men at war is of course something that is very close to the hearts of New Zealanders and it has been an honour to be able to provide occasions at which to recognise the price paid by many.”

Members of the community wanting to attend the closing ceremony should assemble at 445am at Fort Takapuna and should bring a torch and wear warm clothing.

An informal BYO breakfast will be held following the ceremony. Milk, tea, coffee and some fruit will be provided.

Those unable to attend but who would like to keep a cross in memory of a family member lost at war should contact Actionline on 09 486 8600.


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