WINSTON PETERS: Let’s make sure our saddest day is remembered

13/10/2017
843 New Zealanders lost their lives. Photo: Reuters.

OPINION: Winston Peters - Let's make sure our saddest day is remembered. 

On Thursday, the country paused briefly to remember the centenary of probably the most disastrous day in the country’s history.

In just a few hours on October 12, 1917, a total of 843 New Zealand soldiers were slaughtered in a failed attack at Bellevue Spur at the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium.

An additional 1800 men were grievously wounded and did not recover. This does not include those who suffered the mental scars of the battle which they carried for the rest of their days.

For a small country which then had a population of only one million people, the impact of this one day of war was immense.

Today it is hard for us to imagine the hell New Zealand soldiers went through.

They were ordered to attack over land that had been churned into mud after days of torrential rain and relentless bombing.

To help them, an Allied artillery barrage was supposed to have wiped out lines of razor wire protecting the German positions.

The barrage failed. When the New Zealanders reached these wires they were simply cut to ribbons by withering blasts of machinegun and rifle fire.

If ever New Zealand needs a reminder of the horrors and oft-times stupidity of war, then we have it in little more than two hours at Bellevue Spur.

New Zealand remembers all those who died at Passchendaele and who have served our country in conflicts and hot spots around the world with our annual Anzac Day.

But New Zealand First believes this one day of horror at Passchendaele also warrants special attention so that future generations will not forget how our soldiers gave their lives.

We are now calling for a special report to be prepared into how best New Zealand can commemorate this bloodiest and saddest day in the country’s military history.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters Leader of New Zealand First