Re­mem­ber­ing Nel­son’s dark­est day

The Leader (Tasman) - - FRONT PAGE - KAREN STADE

Re­mem­ber­ing Nel­son’s black­est day, Oc­to­ber 12, 1917

The Nel­son and Tas­man men killed or mor­tally wounded on Oc­to­ber 12, 1917 – the day on which New Zealand lost more lives than on any other sin­gle day dur­ing World War I, will be re­mem­bered at Founders Her­itage Park this week­end.

Thirty-two men from across the for­mer Nel­son Prov­ince died and a fur­ther nine were mor­tally wounded, dy­ing over the next few days and into early Novem­ber of the in­juries sus­tained dur­ing the First Bat­tle of Pass­chen­daele in Flan­ders, Bel­gium.

Nel­son’s dead were part of what has been de­scribed as New Zealand’s great­est dis­as­ter and the black­est day in the coun­try’s post-1840 his­tory. Around 950 Kiwi sol­diers died or were mor­tally wounded that day. Of that num­ber 845 men were listed as dy­ing in ac­tion on 12 Oc­to­ber, with the re­main­ing sub­se­quently dy­ing of their wounds. A fur­ther 1750 were in­jured.

To mark the cen­ten­nial of the Bat­tle of Pass­chen­daele this week, the Nel­son His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety is host­ing a dis­play and ed­u­ca­tion ses­sion at the Me­mo­rial Gardens at Founders on Saturday be­tween 10am-3pm.

His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety mem­ber and WWI re­searcher Peter Mill­ward says the toll of 950 dead is larger than the com­bined death tolls of national dis­as­ters such as Tangi­wai, Ere­bus, Wahine, and the Napier and Christchurch earth­quakes. It also su­per­sedes that of An­zac Day, 25 April 1915, when AN­ZAC troops landed on the beach Gal­lipoli and met de­fen­sive fire from Turk­ish troops. By the end of that day more than 100 New Zealand sol­diers were dead, and oth­ers lay mor­tally wounded.

Saturday’s dis­play will in­clude de­tails about the Pass­chen­daele of­fen­sive, a mon­tage of pho­tos of many of the lo­cal men killed on 12 Oc­to­ber 1917, and brief biogra­phies. Peo­ple will be in­vited to iden­tify their WWI an­ces­tor ser­vice peo­ple on the re­gion’s Wall of Hon­our, which lists more than 3000 names of lo­cals who served in var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties dur­ing the war.

A Golden Bay fam­ily will have par­tic­u­lar promi­nence. The Newloves lost three sons at Pass­chen­daele, one dur­ing the first of­fen­sive on Oc­to­ber 4 and two on Oc­to­ber 12.

Mr Mill­ward will also give help to peo­ple want­ing to know how to re­search their WWI sol­dier an­ces­tors us­ing re­sources such as the Auck­land War Me­mo­rial Ceno­taph, New Zealand mil­i­tary records, and ge­nealog­i­cal web­sites.

He, along with Mike Car­na­han, has spent sev­eral years re­search­ing the mil­i­tary records of hun­dreds of peo­ple in or­der to de­ter­mine their el­i­gi­bil­ity to be in­cluded in the Nel­son-Tas­man Wall of Hon­our. In do­ing so, they have also dis­cov­ered up to 100 men whose names are ei­ther not listed on a war me­mo­rial ap­pro­pri­ate to where they or their fam­i­lies lived, or are ab­sent from any lo­cal war me­mo­rial at all.

‘‘We hope to be able to rec­tify this in time for the cen­ten­nial of the end of World War I, Ar­mistice Day, next year on 11 Novem­ber,’’ he said.


Sol­diers man­han­dle a field gun through the mud at Pass­chen­daele.

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