12 October, 2012
Speech to the 95th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Passchendaele
Thank you for this opportunity to acknowledge the sacrifice made by those New Zealanders who fought in the Battle of Passchendaele 95 years ago.
The Battle of Passchendaele Multi-Media Competition is designed to promote a greater understanding amongst young New Zealanders of the terrible sacrifices made during this battle.
In New Zealand, our memories of the First World War tend to be dominated by the Gallipoli campaign. However it is also important to remember that the great majority of our casualties occurred on the Western Front in France and Belgium between 1916 and 1918.
The New Zealand troops that attacked Bellevue Spur near Passchendaele on the morning of 12 October 1917 had to advance through thick mud in the face of intense rifle, machine gun and artillery fire. Within a few hours the New Zealand Division suffered more than 2700 casualties of which about 850 were fatal.
Total New Zealand casualties in the battle amounted to more than 5000. The scale of this disaster for a small country is hard to grasp. Every city, town and district was affected.
To put these figures into some sort of context you need to remember that at this time New Zealand's population was just over one million.
If our nation today suffered a disaster on a similar scale, it would equate to around 22,000 New Zealanders killed or injured in the space of a month.
This is why events like today, and this competition, are so important in remembering one of our nation’s darkest periods.
Once again this year the entries have again been of outstanding quality. I was very impressed at the thoughtful and innovative efforts, and I want to congratulate everyone who made an effort and contributed.
I’m proud to announce this year’s winner as Nathan Garry, 17, from Dunstan High School in Alexandra.
Nathan’s entry, entitled ‘The Boys from the Upper Junction’, is an outstanding entry and a powerful tribute to those who sacrificed their lives during the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917.
Nathan receives a $2000 cheque to go towards his education, and he will be studying engineering at Canterbury University next year.
Congratulations Nathan, and thank you to the judging panel who had a tough job to do.