Prince marks New Zealand losses at Passchendaele
THE Duke of Cambridge has told descendants of New Zealand soldiers who died at the Battle of Passchendaele that although we may never truly understand the conditions they endured “we can remember”.
Speaking at a centenary service commemorating the actions, valour and commitment of the Kiwis, William said newsreels may have described them as ordinary men and women but “there was nothing ordinary about their service or their sacrifice”.
The Duke, who represented the Queen at the event in Belgium, was joined by the country’s Princess Astrid and delivered his speech at Tyne Cot cemetery, near the town of Ypres in Flanders, surrounded by thousands of headstones of Allied servicemen. October 12, 1917 has become known as the darkest day of the war for the New Zealand Division, which suffered heavy loses when they were ordered to take an area called Bellevue Spur but were bogged down in shell holes under enemy fire.
On that day, more than 840 Kiwis were killed fighting in a foreign land far from home – part of a huge toll of dead and injured both sides suffered that summer. Before the service began, William and Astrid were greeted by the Maori cultural group of the New Zealand Defence Force, whose spiritual calls and chants rang out across the white headstones.
The Duke also shared the traditional Maori greeting with Willie Apiata, the first and so far only recipient of the Victoria Cross for New Zealand.