Anzac Day has always held a special place for the District President of the RSA and his wife but a a recent visit to Arras in France really brought it back home.
Shirley and Clive Collingwood traced the steps that Kiwi Sappers took whilst building tunnels underground to get behind enemy lines in WWI – a journey that would sit heavily on their hearts for some time.
Collingwood was referred to as a Sapper when he served in the Royal New Zealand Engineer Core as a full corporal.
He said seeing New Zealand place names painted on the walls by the kiwi tunnelers was a moving experience.
They worked in trying conditions for long hours.
‘‘They dug a tunnel underground probably 500 metres in eight days and that got them to the other side of the German lines.’’
Collingwood attended a memorial dedicated to the tunnelers in Waihi in January before going over to visit the Arras Tunnels.
‘‘A lot of the tunneler’s from the New Zealand Tunnelling Company came from the gold mines in Waihi,’’ he said.
New Zealand soldiers played a significant part in the development of this military system.
By the end of the war, official records show 937men had served in the New Zealand Tunnelling Company. At least 62 of them never returned.
‘‘It’s still exactly like it was. There’s still the old powerlines through it, all the old bottles and rubbish still there,’’ he said of visiting the tunnels.
The couple continued their journey to visit Hill 60 in the south of Ypres in Belgium.
It was a different experience for Collingwood who said you could see 40 kilometres out to sea with a 360 degree view.
‘‘To describe it you go to the top of the Kaimais and you can see forever. Over there you’ve got a hill sixty metres above sea level.
‘‘The Germans had control over everywhere because they could see you move.’’
Every night at 8pm the people gather in Ypres at the Menin Gate to recite The Olde of Remembrance.
The RSA Waikato District President carried poppies with him to mark the sites of kiwi soldiers who died in Arras, France and Ypres in Belgium.