12 October 2010
Veterans Affairs Minister Judith Collins today paid tribute to the 2,700 soldiers who were casualties of the deadliest single day in the history of the New Zealand military.
On 12 October 1917 more than 2,700 New Zealand soldiers were killed, wounded or listed as missing in the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium.
The battle was part of a huge Allied offensive on the Western Front during World War I.
The battle was fought by British, ANZAC and Canadian soldiers against the German Army. Both sides lost a combined total of over half a million troops during the offensive.
“For several months, the soldiers endured the nightmare of mud-filled trenches, swathes of barbed wire and artillery fire. Day after day they braved machine gun and shells in an effort to break through German defences,” Ms Collins said.
“October 12 was a significant day in New Zealand history. In just two hours, more than 2,700 Kiwi soldiers were killed, wounded or listed as missing in action. This remains the most deadly day in New Zealand’s military history.
“This was a monumental loss to our young country. We should never forget the incredible sacrifice by these soldiers on that terrible day 93 years ago.”
To ensure that New Zealand’s sacrifice on the Western Front is not forgotten, Ms Collins intends to introduce a competition based on the battle for year 13 school students.
“New Zealand lost more soldiers on the Western Front than in the Gallipoli campaign. It is important that our young people know of the heroism that took place in the fields of Belgium and of the terrible human toll of war,” Ms Collins said.
Further details of the competition will be announced in April 2011.
Media contact: Stefan Herrick 04 817 9809 or 021 748 492.