The New Zealand Memorial at s’Graventafel is one of a number of similarly styled New Zealand memorials along the Western Front that commemorate actions involving the New Zealand Division, sited on or near the battlefields where they fought.
Not to be confused with the seven New Zealand memorials, to be found in CWGC cemeteries, that remember the missing. Me, I was confused for years!
This memorial, unveiled on 2nd August 1924 by the New Zealand High Commissioner in London, Sir James Allen, formerly New Zealand Minister of Defence during the war,…
…commemorates the New Zealand Division’s part in the successful Battle of Broodseinde on 4th October 1917,…
…and the memorial looks out on the very fields over which the New Zealanders, coming from the right side of the picture towards us, attacked.
At the base of the memorial…
…a Maori carving surrounds the New Zealand fern, beneath which…
…all is explained.
As indeed it is on two of the other three sides of the memorial,…
…where there are tablets with the same wording in French (above), and on the other side, Flemish (later),…
…with the four battalions of the New Zealand Division, all of whom participated in the battle, inscribed on the reverse tablet.
The Flemish tablet…
That way to Tyne Cot Cemetery, which I’d been to just once, a long time ago, and will need to revisit before I can show you around properly, and to Passchendaele, or Passendale, as it is now called. Tyne Cot is just so big, this next section is a little like the bonus tracks you sometimes get at the end of remastered CDs – a few pictures of the cemetery, taken in the summer of 2007, until I get the opportunity to return:
Now the largest CWGC burial ground in the world, nearly 12,000 men are buried or commemorated at Tyne Cot Cemetery.
And it truly is a vast place, by far the majority of the men buried here being casualties from 1917.
Here, thanks to the CWGC, you can see the mother of all cemetery plans.
The cemetery name comes from a fortified barn in the German lines which the Northumberland Fusiliers, facing them, referred to as ‘Tyne Cottage’ or ‘Tyne Cot’. The barn, the defences of which included a number of blockhouses, was captured by 3rd Australian Division on 4th October 1917, the same day the New Zealanders were capturing Gravenstafel.
The largest of the German blockhouses was then used by the British as an advanced dressing station, and between 6th October 1917 & late March 1918, 343 men were buried nearby, and it is some of these original graves that you are looking at here, the blockhouse now being within the huge base of the Cross of Sacrifice, on which I was standing to take these shots.
As I said, the huge base of the Cross, with German bunker still inside. In German territory from mid-April 1918, it was Belgian troops who, on 28th September that year, following their capture of Passchendaele village, retook the cemetery.
After the war Tyne Cot was hugely enlarged as men were brought here from the Passchendaele and Langemarck battlefields and from various smaller burial grounds.
Along the north east boundary of the cemetery, a vast screen wall contains the names of nearly 35,000 British & New Zealand soldiers, airmen and sailors, who died between 16th August 1917 and the end of the war. This is the Tyne Cot Memorial, and it’s worth remembering at this point that, although not the case for the Australians, Canadians, Indians & South Africans, of the 54,000 names on the Menin Gate that are British, all, with the odd exception, are men killed prior to 16th August.
Just one of the 166 panels, as you can see on the memorial plan.
So now you can see why this place is going to take a good many hours to photograph properly.
Looking west from Plot I, some of the original graves nearest the camera, this is the view the defending Germans would have had across No Man’s Land towards the Australian lines in October 1917, had they foolishly popped their heads above the parapet to look.
The grave of Private James Peter Robertson V.C., 27th Bn. Canadian Infantry, killed on 6th November 1917. His citation reads, ‘For most conspicuous bravery and outstanding devotion to duty in attack. When his platoon was held up by uncut wire and a machine gun causing many casualties, Pte. Robertson dashed to an opening on the flank, rushed the machine gun and, after a desperate struggle with the crew, killed four and then turned the gun on the remainder, who, overcome by the fierceness of his onslaught, were running towards their own lines. His gallant work enabled the platoon to advance. He inflicted many more casualties among the enemy, and then carrying the captured machine gun, he led his platoon to the final objective. He there selected an excellent position and got the gun into action, firing on the retreating enemy who by this time were quite demoralised by the fire brought to bear on them. During the consolidation Pte. Robertson’s most determined use of the machine gun kept down the fire of the enemy snipers; his courage and his coolness cheered his comrades and inspired them to the finest efforts. Later, when two of our snipers were badly wounded in front of our trench, he went out and carried one of them in under very severe fire. He was killed just as he returned with the second man.’
8,373 of the burials here are unidentified.
Other German blockhouses still remain within the cemetery’s boundaries (above & below).
So, better than nothing, eh? And one day we shall return, but in the meantime,…
…back at s’Gravenrafel, old road signs, although still with the ‘new’ spelling, to Ieper, Passendale & Langemark, with a much newer CWGC sign behind.
Why s’Graventafel? I have no idea. It was actually Gravenstafel during the war. Next, as we get closer to Passchendaele, another memorial, Canadian this time.
A brief stop at Tyne Cot the other week means I too need to return to do it justice, the sheer scale is somewhat overwhelming to know where to start. Interesting that the German bunker is built into the cross of remembrance, I assume simply down to location and design.
The few cemeteries in Belgian Flanders I have never visited at all include the biggies – Poelcapelle & Lijssenthoek – and then Tyne Cot properly. I know, how exactly do you do them justice? Still working on that one……