October 05, 2007

90 years after Passchendaele

You may know by now that World War I is still a Big Thing in New Zealand, what with Anzac Day on 25 April fast becoming an alternative national day for many people, especially young people. But it is a bit odd that a military disaster is celebrated, or rather commemorated, as an instance that forged a national identity - whatever that means. The Battle of Gallipoli is these days far better known down under than it is in Britain, on whose behalf that extraordinary bad campaign was organised by Winston Churchill.
There are other battles in the Great War that saw more blood and glory by New Zealand troops, even though the losses there were even more appalling than in Turkey. There was the Battle of Messines, which I've written about before, and our Prime Minister is off to Flanders Fields to commemorate the 90th anniversary of that other great bloodbath, the Battle of Passchendaele.
Now the Auckland War Memorial Museum supports calls for greater recognition for Passchendaele:
"At the start of a week long programme of events commentating the Battle of Passchendaele, Auckland War Memorial Museum's new Director, Dr Vanda Vitali voiced her support for the Prime Ministers call for greater recognition of courage and commitment of the young men who fought in that terrible war.
Dr Vanda Vitali said that "For a county the size of New Zealand to lose 1300 young men in just one week is a human toll to unbearable to contemplate - but Museums are the memory keepers, and as such we must contemplate and commemorate. Our week long programme of events this year is the start of what we anticipate will be an on-going commitment by our museum to commemorate Passchendaele, giving Aucklanders an annual opportunity to remember these brave young men."
The Museum has set up Project Passchendaele to collect stories from the front.

No comments: