IAIN DAVID­SON

The Invercargill Eye - - CONVERSATIONS -

Oc­to­ber 12, 1917 was New Zealand’s costli­est sin­gle day in com­bat, with 843 lives lost and 2700 ca­su­al­ties.

The ob­jec­tive of the at­tack was a ridge­line near the vil­lage of Pass­chen­daele, Bel­gium.

Of the 1300 South­landers who lost their lives in WW1, 105 were killed in ac­tion on that day alone.

In­ces­sant rain had filled shell­holes that rid­dled ‘no mans land’, and the Ger­mans held higher ground on a ridge over­look­ing the bat­tle­field.

A pre­lim­i­nary bar­rage meant to cut the Ger­man barbed wire de­fences, but ar­tillery pieces floun­dered in the mud and shell­fire of­ten fell short. The Al­lied forces went over the top in the early hours and were met by en­emy bul­lets and shells.

Only a few made it through the wire, found their po­si­tion un­ten­able and had to fall back.

Sol­diers drowned in wa­ter filled shell­holes and many were cut down by en­emy fire.

South­lander Leonard Hart wit­nessed the car­nage and wrote to his par­ents af­ter the bat­tle ‘‘the torn up con­di­tion of the ground made the mud ten times worse than it would have oth­er­wise been. The only struc­tures which had with­stood the bom­bard­ment in any way at all were the Ger­man ma­chine gun em­place­ments.

‘‘My com­pany went into ac­tion 180 strong and we come out thir­tytwo strong. The wire had been cut in a few places but only suf­fi­cient to al­low a few men through at a time, even then what was left of us made an at­tempt to get through the wire only to be shot down as fast as they ap­peared. Dozens got hung up in the wire and shot down be­fore their sur­viv­ing com­rades.’’

The re­sult was a com­pre­hen­sive and har­row­ing de­feat to the Al­lies, and the New Zealand Divi­sion was one of the hard­est hit.

John David­son was a farmer from Bry­done who en­listed with the 22nd re­in­force­ments New

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