Tag Archives: WW1

At the going down of the sun and in the morning ~ Remembrance Sunday

Tower of London poppies ~ 25 Sep 2014

Tower of London poppies ~ 25 Sep 2014

This is how the Tower of London is commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red is an installation created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins with setting by stage designer Tom Piper, and has involved the help of hundreds of volunteer ‘poppy planters’. The Tower’s moat is being progressively filled with 888,246 ceramic poppies – each representing a British forces death during the war. The last poppy is being placed on November 11th, the date the Armistice was signed.

Tower of London poppies ~ 25 Sep 2014

Tower of London poppies ~ 25 Sep 2014

Every day since August 5, the names of 180 Commonwealth troops who were killed in the war have been read out at sunset, followed by the Last Post. These names are nominated by the public, and I nominated my two ANZACs, Peter Gaffaney and Edward Tunnecliff. Their names were read out on Thursday, September 25, and our whole family went up to London to hear them.

My (very short) video of their names being read out:

You can read more about these two soldiers in previous posts:

The official video of the full ceremony of September 25 including the Last Post is available on the Tower of London Roll of Honour website.

Tower of London poppies ~ 25 Sep 2014

Tower of London poppies ~ 25 Sep 2014

We will remember them.

Edward George Tunnecliff ~ an ANZAC all the same

Edward Tunnecliff (my first cousin thrice removed) was born in New Plymouth on 9th May 1886, the eldest son of George Tunnecliff (Jnr) and Alice Kine. He was living in Dover Road, Okato, with his brother Leonard, and farming land in Tataraimaka, when he was conscripted into the New Zealand Expeditionary Force Reserve in 1916. This First Division was made up of men between the ages of 20 and 45, who were British subjects, and either unmarried, or with no dependent children.

On his attestation on 18th September 1916, Edward was 30 years and 3 months old, 5 feet 7 1/2 inches in height, and weighing 158 pounds. He had a fair complexion, blue eyes, and brown hair mixed with grey. He was passed as fit, and a note made that his teeth “requires attention”.

He was posted to the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, B Company, for training at Trentham Military Camp. Within 26 days he was dead.

Overlooking the "Reinforcement" Military Camp at Trentham, in 1915

Overlooking the “Reinforcement” Military Camp at Trentham, 1915. Ref: 1/2-035323-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22693340

Trentham Camp, near Wellington, was built to house and train two thousand soldiers for World War 1. Eventual numbers reached more than 7000, and the damp, crowded accommodation saw a growing number of soliders struck down with respiratory ailments. The first few cases of measles in November 1914, escalated into an epidemic, with the camp registering over a thousand cases by the middle of 1915.

Wellington Hospital filled up with infected soldiers, and a nearby old fever hospital was taken over. Soon, this too was overflowing, and some kind of accommodation was required for those soldiers not quite sick enough for hospital, but still requiring a period of isolation before rejoining their unit. A residential home close to Trentham was offered by its owner Mr C.J. Izard for accommodating up to 25 soldiers1. After a storm demolished one of the camp’s “measles marquees”, Messrs Levin and Co. offered a large three-storied store at Kaiwarra, free of charge to the Health Department, for hospital purposes2.

Provision has been made at Kaiwarra for the recreation of the convalescents, and, as announced elsewhere, a billiard table has already been given them, but people anxious to make the isolation of the soldiers less tedious can yet find scope for their generosity. All kinds of games, such as deck-quoits, also books and magazines, will be received with gratitude.
Evening Post, 17 Jun 1915, “MEASLES EPIDEMIC”3

The general public rallied to help support the sick soldiers. Around the country, the newspapers were filled with articles and letters to the editors decrying the appalling conditions at Trentham.

World War I soldiers outside tents at Trentham Miltary camp, Upper Hutt, Wellington

World War I soldiers outside tents at Trentham Miltary camp, Upper Hutt, Wellington, 1914. Ref: 1/1-017536-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23074704

TRENTHAM HOSPITALS

Sir, – I feel it is my duty to let the people of Auckland know the condition of the soliders at Trentham as regards medical situation. The outside public know nothing of how the medical portion of this camp is mismanaged and neglected. There are at the present time over 600 cases in the hospital at Wellington, mostly measles or serious chest and lung complaints. The accommodation there is shockingly inadequate. Measles are sweeping through these long huts with great rapidity. The following is the monotonous routine:- A man feels ill and his chest is one mass of measles. The orderly corporal takes him, together with 10 to 12 others, down to the medical tent at 8.15am. Outside this small marquee the whole of the sick men from all the camp must wait. No matter what the weather is, no matter how ill they are, there they must stand, in mud often over their boot-tops, until their turn comes to see the doctor. I have myself seen men waiting thus in pouring rain for two whole hours. Worse than this, I have seen them faint with sheer exhaustion at such a trying ordeal. The invariable remedy, no matter what the complaint, is two pills, plus “excused from duties for the rest of the day,” or in the case of measles they are hurriedly rushed off to a hospital in Wellington. There they remain for three or four days until the infectious stage is over, and back to camp they are bundled again, weak and ill – to hang about on “light duties for a week.”
Yesterday (Friday, June 26) 650 men “reported sick” and some of them had to stand outside in the rain from 8.15am until after 11am. On Wednesday there was no doctor in attendance at all, and after a two hours’ wait the unfortunate men were forced to return. Three men died of measles last week, and there will be many more ere the winters is out unless the medical side of so large a camp is properly managed. In every tent and hut sick men are lying – some in high fevers, and all with wet coats and clothes hanging around, and some with wet clothes actually on their sick bodies. They report sick and are sent back again. The hospitals in Wellington are taxed to the utmost, and can take no more. The people of New Zealand, as long ago as last February, subscribed a more than generous amount for a permanent base hospital here in camp. Although the matter is of much urgency, and all these months have gone by, we are absolutely without a hospital except two ordinary sized marquees, holding not more than 20 beds. The public will be told that their hospital is “in course of erection.” It is, and in another two or, perhaps, three years it will be ready. Meanwhile we are pegging along in the utmost discomfiture, and God help the unfortunate who get ill! The camp authorities certainly will not.
A TRENTHAM SOLIDER.
New Zealand Herald, 29 June 1915 “LETTERS TO THE EDITOR”4

Eventually, after a visit to the camp from Prime Minister William Massey, the decision was made to relocate the majority of the soldiers in July 1915, and additional training camps were established at Waikanae and Palmerston North. Around 1300 soldiers stayed at Trentham.

The Report of the Trentham Camp Commission5 tabled in the House of Representatives on 27th August 1915, found that several causes had contributed to the spread of sickness:

  • aggregation of so many men in a confined space, first in tents and then in larger groups in huts, often in wet clothes
  • bringing into an already infected camp of large numbers of fresh troops
  • wetness of the ground because of inefficient surface drainage
  • no provision for drying clothes and boots
  • deficiencies in the hutment design, and their overcrowding
  • unnecessary exposure during sick parades, causing fatigue
  • inadequate provision for dealing with a rapidly increasing number of sick
  • the specially infectious character of the diseases
  • lack of sanitation

Due care and efficient measures were not always taken to prevent or minimise sickness or mortality, and there was no efficient system for the treatment of the sick, and no hospital accommmodation at the camp.

Testimony was given “as to the uncomplaining patience with which the sick men and the men generally faced the conditions arising not only from their ailments but from the inclement weather and the discomforts that ensued“.6

Later newspaper reports expounded the new measures that were being implemented, including the provision of a permanent camp hospital, to ensure the health of soldiers at Trentham. Unfortunately, cases of measles continued to appear, though the peak of the epidemic had passed. The following year, Edward Tunnecliff began his training at Trentham on 19th September. Just eight days later, he was admitted to the camp hospital, where he died on 14th October at 11pm. The cause of death was measles.

I’m not sure what would be worse for a parent – knowing your child had died needlessly in a local military hospital, and having to bury him less than a month after he’d left home; or knowing he’d died violently, in a battle on foreign soil, with possibly no known grave.

Edward takes his place on the New Zealand Honour Roll, along with 504 others who died while in training. He is buried at Te Henui cemetery, New Plymouth, alongside his parents.

Grave of Private Edward George Tunnecliff (1886-1916), Te Henui Cemetery, New Plymouth, NZ

Grave of Private Edward George Tunnecliff (1886-1916), Te Henui Cemetery, New Plymouth, NZ (Image: NZ War Graves Project)7

 

At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

This post is my contribution to the 2014 Trans-Tasman ANZAC Day Blog Challenge.

  1. Evening Post, vol LXXXIX, issue 135, 9 June 1915, page 8; digitised version, PapersPast (http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/ : accessed 22 April 2014).
  2. Evening Post, vol LXXXIX, issue 140, 15 June 1915, page 8; digitised version, PapersPast (http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/ : accessed 22 April 2014).
  3. Evening Post, vol LXXXIX, issue 142, 17 Jun 1915, page 8; digitised version, PapersPast (http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/ : accessed 22 April 2014).
  4. “LETTERS TO THE EDITOR”, New Zealand Herald, volume LII, issue 15956, 29 June 1915page 10; digitised version, PapersPast (http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/ : accessed 22 April 2014).
  5. “TRENTHAM CAMP COMMISSION’S REPORT”, Dominion, vol 8, issue 2552, 28 August 1915, page 6; digitised version, PapersPast (http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/ : accessed 22 April 2014).
  6. Ibid.
  7. New Zealand War Graves Project, in association with AucklandMuseum.com, digital image, (http://www.nzwargraves.org.nz/casualties/edward-george-tunnecliff : accessed 24 April 2014).

Sources:

Archives NZ. “TUNNECLIFF, Edward George – WW1 33480 – Army : Military Personnel File”; digitised file, Archway (http://www.archway.archives.govt.nz/ : accessed 05 Nov 2010).

Kohn, George Childs. “New Zealand measles epidemics, 1915–1916 and 1938.” Encyclopedia of Plague and Pestilence, Third Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Modern World History Online. Facts On File, Inc. (http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?
ItemID=WE53&iPin=ENPP469&SingleRecord=True : accessed 21 April 2014).

Ancestry.com.New Zealand Army WWI Reserve Rolls, 1916-1917 [database on-line] (http://www.ancestry.co.uk/ : accessed 22 April 2014); New Zealand Expeditionary Force Reserve – 1916-1919. Microfiche 1-23.

Ancestry.com. New Zealand Army WWI Roll of Honour, 1914-1919 [database on-line] (http://www.ancestry.co.uk/ : accessed 22 April 2014); The Great War 1914-1918, New Zealand Expeditionary Force Roll of Honour. Microfiche, 3 rolls.

Picture Palace, Helmia Camp ~ Military Monday

Poster for entertainments at the Picture Palace, Helmia Camp, Cairo - 1915

Poster for entertainments at the Picture Palace, Helmia Camp, Cairo – April 1915

This is a poster advertising entertainment at Helmia Camp in Egypt, and was amongst a collection of photographs, newspaper clippings, and postcards, all belonging to my great grandfather Alexander Wright. It shows he was a bugler (and could sing!), and places him in Cairo on April 19th, 1915: the date of the entertainment starts on a Monday in April, either the 19th or 29th. The only dates between 1915 and 1917 (when he was back in New Zealand) that this occurs is April 19, 1915. (www.dayoftheweek.org)

Military Monday is an ongoing series at GeneaBloggers.

For Acts of Gallantry in the Field ~ Sgt P.M. Gaffaney M.M.

I’m not related to any famous generals or admirals (that I know of!), but I am immensely proud of those servicemen in my family who fought with courage and fortitude in their own way, and I honour one of them this ANZAC Day.

Sgt Peter Gaffaney M.M. (1893-1918)

Sgt Peter Gaffaney M.M. (1893-1918)

My (first, thrice removed) cousin Peter has appeared in a few posts now on this blog, and no, there was no happy ending for him.  Yet, I wanted to know about his Military Medal, and why it was awarded to him.  No published accounts mention his name or deeds, so I looked to his battalion and its account of the war in its diaries.

2nd Battalion NZRB - War Diary, March 1918

2nd Battalion NZRB – War Diary, March 1918 (WO95/3709, National Archives, Kew, London)

On March 9th, 1918, Sgt Peter Gaffaney rejoined the 2nd Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (NZRB), after two weeks’ leave in the UK. On that day the battalion had route-marched from Houlle (France) to Watten, and then travelled by rail to Ypres, so that may be where he joined up with them, before marching to Forestor Camp.

After moving to Lankhof Farm camp six days later, the battalion were then moved on to Halifax camp at short notice on March 21st, being fitted out and organised for active operations.

By March 22nd the NZRB had received orders to get ready to move south at three hours’ notice, along with other Brigades in the NZ Divison.

On March 23rd, instructions were issued for the move by rail the following day.

2nd Battalion NZRB - War Diary, March 1918

2nd Battalion NZRB – War Diary, March 1918 (WO95/3709, National Archives, Kew, London)

March 24th
Battn route-marched to HOPOUTRE Siding & entrained there at 11.15pm for an unknown destination

March 25th-26th
Detrained at AMIENS at about 1pm 25th and bivouacked in public gardens. All surplus gear was stored and Battalion was equipped in Battle order.

…At midnight Battn proceeded by motor lorries to PONT NOYELLES arriving there at 2am 26th. Started marching forward at 2.30am via FRAUVILLERS BAIZIEUX WARLOY to HEDAUVILLE arriving there 7am after a hard dusty march. The Battn. bivouacked in a paddock in the village & the men enjoyed a hot meal and rest till midday. At 1pm marched on to MAILLY MAILLET at which village orders were received for an attack to be made by the Battn.

A large gap existed in our line at this time extending roughly from HAMEL to PUISIEUX and only two Battns of the Division had arrived – 1st CANTERBURY and 1st Battn N.Z.R.B. These Battns were astride the MAILLY MAILLET-SERRE Road – 1st CANTERBURY on right, 1st N.Z.R.B. on left in line with the windmill at Q.1.d (57.d) At this time certain batteries were evacuating MAILLY MAILLET and situation was obscure – no shelling and no sign of enemy excepting a little m.g.[machine gun] fire and sniping.

New Zealand soldiers around a billy in a strong post, near Mailly-Maillet, France, during World War I.

New Zealand soldiers around a billy in a strong post, near Mailly-Maillet, France, during World War I. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association :New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918. Ref: 1/2-013081-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22780897

1st AUCKLAND arrived in village about same time and about 13 tanks were reported in neighbourhood of COLINCAMPS. Objective given Battn was SERRE Village north along road SERHEB to K.23. Central. 1st AUCKLAND K.35.a to SERRE Village. Four VICKERS guns were allotted to Battalion and no artillery support beyond the assistance of a 4.5 Battery in the orchard behind windmill. This Battery came into action at 5pm.

New Zealand soldier using a captured machine gun at the front line at La Synge Farm, France, during World War I.

The New Zealand batteries firing at Germans near Mailly-Maillet, France. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association :New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918. Ref: 1/2-013075-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23081425

..The attack was launched from the line of the two Battns holding the SERRE Road at 5.30pm. We advanced on the left of road and 1st AUCKLAND on right – soon to in front. These two lines extended on a two Coy. frontage, balance of two Coys in artillery formation. ‘C’ Coy was on right – ‘D’ Coy on left – and ‘B’ Coy. acting as a left flank guard. All went well until the line of the road Sugar Refinery – EUSTON was reached, when m.g. fire from direction of LA SIGNY Farm and Right flank about One Tree Hill became so heavy that the advance ceased, – also partly because AUCKLAND were not so far forward on the right and the left flank was not in a favourable state for pushing on. 1st AUCKLAND reported being held up at 6.45pm.

2nd Battalion NZRB War Diary March 1918 - APPENDIX A

2nd Battalion NZRB War Diary March 1918 – APPENDIX A (WO95/3709, National Archives, Kew, London). Larger version

At this time a gap existed between ‘D’ and ‘B’ Coys – ‘B’ Coy being refused along the EUSTON – COLINCAMPS Road (APPENDIX – SKETCH ‘A’). In the dusk a connection was made with ‘B’ Coy and line was joined up & ‘B’ Coy flank was left to help defend COLINCAMPS as a report was received stating that parties of the enemy were marching on that place. The enemy had been in HEBUTERNE and COLINCAMPS early in the day but were driven out at 11am by the tanks previously mentioned, but just how far we did not know, nor how far the enemy had crept back when the tanks retired before 3pm.

The Battn. started digging in at 6.45pm. At 7pm 1st AUCKLAND came forward and took up a continuation of our line to the Right. During the latter stages of the attack small parties on Huns using m.gs up to the last minute were met with about EUSTON and K.33.a.33. Three light m.gs and one heavy were captured by us and 37 prisoners taken. ‘B’ Coy took two guns and ‘C’ Coy two guns.

New Zealand soldier using a captured machine gun at the front line at La Synge Farm, France, during World War I.

New Zealand soldier using a captured machine gun at the front line at La Synge Farm, France, during World War I. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association :New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918. Ref: 1/2-013100-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22691198

As far as is known 10 enemy were killed and 6 wounded but the advance was too rapid to enable him to get any stretcher cases away. About 20 to 30 enemy retired to this next line – WATERLOO BRIDGE Hedge, but owing to the dark it is hard to state exactly how many.

Our casualties were 9 killed and 35 wounded. All but two were caused by mg. fire – the two by shell fire as the enemy has at this time practically no artillery and it is estimated that he has only two guns on the front which kept firing on the large dump at K.33.a.00,00. For acts of gallantry & good work 3 O/R [Other Ranks] were recommended for decoration. (SEE APPENDIX ‘B’)

March 27th
The night of 26/27 was spent in digging in and was very quiet and at 5am the Battn was relieved successfully by 2nd Bn. AUCKLAND Regiment and returned to support of 1st Brigade at MAILLY MAILLET.

2nd Battalion NZRB, War Diary March 1918 APPENDIX B

2nd Battalion NZRB, War Diary March 1918 APPENDIX B (WO95/3709, National Archives, Kew, London)

APPENDIX B

Recommendation for Awards

24/431 Sgt Peter Michael GAFFANEY

During the advance B Coy, to which this sergeant belonged, had considerable difficulty in getting forward owing to the heavy mac[hine] gun fire. Platoons got mixed and disorganised and several were wounded. Gaffaney disregarding danger moved along platoon, reorganised his sections, and led them forward rushes. A German machine gun about 50 yds in fron[t] of him was causing much trouble. He went forward w[ith] a few men and rushed it, capturing the gun and the prisoners.
Whilst the consolidation was proceeding an enemy was near on the exposed left flank. Sgt Gaffaney immediately hastened a Lewis Gun forward, & secured the position.
For his initiative and gallantry he was recommended for the DCM.

Peter was posthumously awarded the Military Medal for his actions on March 26th, 1918.  He was 24 years old when he died on April 5th, 1918, and is buried at Louvencourt Military Cemetery, Somme, France.

I wonder if any of Peter’s family visited his grave?  Perhaps the brother listed as his next-of-kin, Francis,  a captain in the Wellington Infantry Regiment.  Did he ever see his brother during their time fighting on the other side of the world? How would it feel to have your son, brother, uncle, cousin, buried so far far away? Is there anyone left now to mourn him?

Yes, there is.

Peter Michael Gaffaney (1892-1918) : Louvencourt Military Cemetery, France

Peter Michael Gaffaney (1893-1918) : Louvencourt Military Cemetery, France

Further reading:
Austin, Lieut-Col W. S., “Part 2 – The New Zealand Rifle Brigade into the Gap“, The Official History of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, L.T. Watkins Ltd (Wellington: 1924), digitised by New Zealand Electronic Text Collection, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

Stewart, Col. H., “Chapter IX – The German Offensive, 1918“, The New Zealand Division 1916-1919: A Popular History based on Official Records, Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd (Auckland: 1921), digitised by New Zealand Electronic Text Collection, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

O’Connor, Paul, “The German Offensive March 1918“, From Papanui to Passchendaele,  (http://www.pap-to-pass.org/ : accessed 23 Apr 2013).

Posted as part of the 2013 Trans Tasman ANZAC Day Blog Challenge.

NB. Any errors in transcription or interpretation are all mine.

In Remembrance on this Day ~ Arohanui, Peter

95 years ago today, Peter Michael Gaffaney was wounded in action during a German offensive at the Somme. He died en route to hospital from shell wounds to the face and neck.

After our visit to Ypres, we took a three hour detour through France to visit his grave site at Louvencourt Military Cemetery.

Peter Michael Gaffaney (1892-1918) : Louvencourt Military Cemetery, France

Peter Michael Gaffaney (1893-1918) : Louvencourt Military Cemetery, France

Louvencourt Military Cemetery - April 2013

Louvencourt Military Cemetery, France – April 2013

The cemetery, containing 230 graves, is beautifully kept by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and there is a register of those buried there, and a visitors book you can sign.

Louvencourt Military Cemetery - April 2013

Louvencourt Military Cemetery, France – April 2013

 

Journey to Ypres, Belgium

I tagged a visit to Ypres onto a weekend trip to see friends in Belgium. Having never been, I was keen to see the area where my cousin Peter (first, thrice removed) had fought during World War I and find out a bit about life on the Western Front.

After leaving Brussels at midday on Easter Sunday, our first stop was at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.  It was here I was hoping to learn more about the New Zealand Division’s role in the area, and in that respect I was a little disappointed.  To be fair, our journey through the exhibits was at the speed of a four year old’s attention span, so I couldn’t stop and linger,  but I didn’t see a huge amount about the Kiwi involvement.  I guess, (as my husband pointed out), the New Zealanders were a very small number compared to other nationalities, even though the battles here at Passchendaele included the “blackest day” in NZ history.

Replica of a command post in the tunnels - Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917

Replica of a command post in the tunnels – Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917

On the lower floor of the museum is a replica dugout and tunnel system with (a bit scary for the kids) sound effects – I found this section fascinating (and please excuse the dodgy photography).

Bunks in the tunnels - Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917

Bunks in the tunnels – Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917

The small bookshop was a surprise – a great array of books available on a New Zealand theme and I had to stop myself from grabbing the lot!  I restrained myself to just one:  Massacre at Passchendaele: The New Zealand Story by Glyn Harper.   The other thing I bought was a Zonnebeke trench map (28 N.E. 1, Edition 7. A Scale 1: 10,000), in the hopes that it would be useful as a guide while reading historical accounts of the battles in the area. Plus, I love maps.

Outside the museum it looks like some construction work is underway, and I wonder if it is part of the outside trench replica that I’d read about, which will be completed for the 2014 commemorations.  If you’re bringing kids, it might be an idea to pick up food/snacks on your way, as the onsite eating options are limited and a bit pricey. Our kids, fueled by a breakfast of chocolate Easter eggs, turned up their noses at the gloriously green gloop offered at the bar (a very tasty chervil soup, though it sounded like the waitress called it “gerbil soup” which worried me initially – I had to check that it was  “vegetarian”) and consoled themselves with freshly baked bread.

Before we headed to Ypres, we managed to find the New Zealand memorial at ‘s Gravenstafel, just outside Zonnebeke, which commemorated the Kiwi involvement in the Battle of Broodseinde on October 4th, 1917.

New Zealand Memorial, 's Gravenstafel, Zonnebeke

New Zealand Memorial, ‘s Gravenstafel, Zonnebeke

This Monument marks the site of
Gravenstafel which on October the 4th
1917 was captured by the New Zealand
Division as part of a General Advance
towards Passchendaele

“From the Uttermost Ends of the Earth”

My daughter placed a small remembrance cross at the foot of the memorial.

There were many other places I wanted to stop at, including Tyne Cot cemetery, but unfortunately rumbling young tummies forced us on to Ypres.

Our hotel for the night was located on Grote Markt in the centre of town,  and after filling up on dinner and waffles (not necessarily in that order), we walked to the Menin Gate for 8pm to hear the Last Post.  Completed in 1927, the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing is dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and who have no known graves.  Nearly 55,000 names are inscribed on the memorial, and if a soldier’s remains are found and identifed, his name is removed.  Except during the German occupation of the town in World War II, the Last Post has been played every night at the Menin Gate since 1928, as an expression of gratitude by the people of Ypres to all those who gave their lives for Belgium’s freedom.

It was a cold but beautiful clear night, and the trumpet sound filled the air and lingered over us.  Gets me every time I hear it.  (I had to turn around and ‘shhh’ at a man talking through it  – even my kids were quiet, so not sure why he needed to be yapping on!)   A special wreath-laying took place afterwards, accompanied by bagpipes.  I didn’t recognise the first piece that was played, but the second was ‘Amazing Grace’. Again, very moving.

Last Post at Menin Gate, Ypres - March 2013

Last Post at Menin Gate, Ypres – March 2013

The next morning my 8 year old son and I took off to see In Flanders Fields museum, a few minutes walk from the hotel.  It’s an amazing place, telling many personal stories in an audiovisual way that both of us enjoyed. (I don’t think my 6 and 4 year olds would have liked it as much, however.) We climbed the bell tower  and braved the freezing wind to take in the views over Ypres and beyond.  There are further developments at the museum planned in time for next year’s commemorations.

View over Grote Markt towards Menin Gate, from bell tower, Ypres

View over Grote Markt towards Menin Gate, from bell tower, Ypres

Before we left Ypres, I visited Menin Gate again to view some of the names there of the missing, but didn’t find any New Zealanders.  Later, I found out that the names of the NZ missing are listed elsewhere. Doh!  (The New Zealand Remembrance & Battlefield Tours website has a great list of Kiwi-related memorials and cemeteries.)

There are so many sites to visit and we had so little time, but our quick look has made me excited to read up more and then visit again. Soon!

Menin Gate, Ieper/Ypres, Belgium ~ Wordless Wednesday

 

Menin Gate, Ieper/Ypres - April 2013

Menin Gate, Ieper/Ypres – April 2013

Menin Gate, Ieper/Ypres - April 2013

Menin Gate, Ieper/Ypres – April 2013

Wordless Wednesday is an ongoing series at GeneaBloggers.

To Flanders Fields

Yesterday I posted a photo of my cousin (first, thrice removed), Peter Michael Gaffaney.  I’ve shown the image before, in a post commemorating ANZAC Day – Australia and New Zealand’s “Remembrance Day”, on April 25th.

In that previous post, I gave some of the information I had gleaned from Peter’s service record.  However, the details of his time fighting on the Western Front during the Great War are merely a collection of dates and places and not much else, and I’ve often wondered about what happened out there, what battles he was involved in, what it was actually like for him and his comrades in the NZ Rifle Brigade.  I’ll never come close to really understanding, but a glimpse would be a start.

So, when a trip to visit friends in Belgium at Easter was in the offing, I decided to organise a little detour.  We’re planning to stop for one night in Ieper/Ypres, and will hopefully get time to visit both the Memorial Museum Passeschendaele 1917 and In Flanders Field Museum, and attend the Last Post at Menin Gate.  I won’t get to see everything that I’d like on this fleeting visit, but I guess that’ll give me a good excuse to go back!

 

A fallen hero ~ Wordless Wednesday

Peter Michael Gaffaney (on left)

Peter Michael Gaffaney (on left)

Peter Michael Gaffaney (1893-1918) is my first cousin, three times removed.

Wordless Wednesday is an ongoing series at GeneaBloggers.