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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
allie kiwi BS: Gallipoli, offensive song? (39) RE: BS: Gallipoli, offensive song? 24 Jul 02


I think it would ne hard to find 'facts' online but there are certainly referrences. Maybe I spoke wrongly that we were sent places that you were not. Yes the graves are side by side. But how about who spearheaded attacks? How about who rode in which rail carriages? There are many referrences to the "class ridden absurdities of the british army".

Our numbers of dead may seem few by comparision if you look at statistics - but when you look at the size of our army they were great.

A book review: Glyn Harper Massacre at Passchendaele: the New Zealand story Auckland : HarperCollins, 2000.

We mark Anzac day on the wrong day. It could be argued the real date is October 12. On that day in 1917 over 1000 New Zealanders died in the space of two hours in a quagmire before the small Belgian village of Passchendaele. The effects of those hours still affect New Zealand even if few people now think of the Third Battle of Ypres.

The New Zealand Division was flung into a badly prepared attack with no artillery support. They floundered through thigh deep mud against machine guns and belts of barbed wire. We can imagine Great War battles in some ways thanks to films and the stale, fake file footage trotted out dutifully by TV channels every April. The only real links to it now are the memorials we ignore every day and history books.

This is what makes Harper's book interesting and significant. It's not a tale of heroic feats, derring do and roister-doister. It's a story of bungling, arrogance and stupidity. This applies to all sides. The English high command was misguided to keep the battle running after its opening week in July 1917. The German high command was foolish to maintain a policy of ceaseless counter attacks. The important thing is to understand why all this happened and "Massacre at Passchendaele" explains this very clearly.

The attack was pressed with insufficient reconnaissance, planning and support. This is what led to over 3,000 New Zealand casualties in the space of two hours. It's easy to pardon soldiers shot for desertion according to the law and mores of the time. It would be harder for our government to condemn as war criminals the likes of Haig, Godley and even Russell for their part in this atrocity. Of course that would also involve trying Winston Churchill for the Gallipoli debacle but that's another issue.

Harper's book is a very clear narrative history of the events of October 1917. He interlaces his account with well chosen extracts from letters and diaries which let the soldiers speak for themselves. His last chapter traces the far ranging effects on New Zealand of those few hours in Flanders 83 years ago. Perhaps his most affecting section is the list of the missing from Passchendaele. These aren't just the dead who have known graves but those whose remains were never found. It fills over 70 pages of fine print. "Lest we forget" is one thing; "lest we misunderstand" is the real lesson history teaches us. Harper's book is a worthy step toward that understanding.

From an essay on 'To what extent was New Zealand 'born as a nation' in World War I?' - Anita Kundu

...National pride, too, became more noticeable after the war. Prior to World War I, most New Zealanders identified themselves as Britons. At the time, Anthony Trollope even commented that New Zealanders were more English than the Englishmen of Britain. However, after the war, New Zealanders grew ashamed to be associated with Britain. It was the New Zealand troops that first won and then briefly secured Chunuk Bair, only to lose it after a succession of British blunders. Such incidents, along with the carnage at Gallipoli, led to the realisation that Britain was not infallible. After the war, New Zealanders no longer idealised Britain because they became increasingly conscious of their own achievements.

Allie




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