Smith pays tribute to Passchendaele soldiers

Government Minister Dr Nick Smith has paid tribute to the New Zealand servicemen who fought in the Battle of Passchendaele a century ago at commemorations today in Belgium.

“The 12th of October 1917 at Passchendaele was the worst loss of life in New Zealand history, with 843 soldiers killed that day. We remember the courage and sacrifice of these brave men in atrocious conditions and pay tribute to their service to our country and the values they stood for,” Dr Smith says.

“The huge losses New Zealand suffered on the Western Front during World War 1 exceeded those for all other battles and all other wars, with Passchendaele being the worst. These tragic campaigns contributed to New Zealand having the highest per capita loss of life of any country during WW1.”

Dr Smith attended the official commemorations at Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery in the world, containing the graves of 520 New Zealanders. Prince William attended on behalf of the Queen and Princess Astrid of Belgium on behalf of King Philippe, along with many New Zealanders, including Speaker of the House Hon David Carter.

The New Zealand Passchendaele Centennial Memorial and Garden in Belgium were also opened as part of the commemorations. Ceremonies concluded at sunset at Buttes New British Cemetery in Polygon Wood, where 95 Kiwis are buried and where the New Zealand Memorial to the Missing records the names of 388 New Zealanders who died near there but have no known grave.

“The losses at Passchendaele were so huge that most New Zealand families have a connection to a fallen soldier. It has added poignancy to the commemorations and my visit to have found the gravesite of my wife’s relative, Private Nelson Newport of the 2nd Battalion Canterbury Regiment, who was killed in action during the Battle of Passchendaele.

“We owe it to the memory of the thousands of New Zealanders who died under horrendous conditions on the Western Front in places like Passchendaele to value the freedom, liberty and justice they fought for and to constantly strive for peace so as to avoid repeats of such tragic conflicts in future.”


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