Selection for Belgian March Reveals WWI Personal Connection

18 July 2018

Staff Sergeant Wayne Higginson will take a break from his training duties to join the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) platoon marching in the Belgian National Day miltary parade in Brussels on Saturday.

The NZDF is parading a 43-member contingent comprising personnel from the three Services. Led by a Māori cultural element of taua (warriors), they will be marching in the Belgian National Day military parade in Brussels.

They will march with contingents from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and United States, as well as the Belgian Armed Forces, to mark the First World War centenary.

The NZDF contingent will also visit First World War battle sites in France and Belgium, during which Staff Sergeant Higginson will pay respects to two of his relatives.

Having grown up in Featherston, Staff Sergeant Higginson was aware of the twin-town agreement with the town of Mesen/Messines but has only just discovered a very personal connection to the Belgium town. His great uncle, Private Thomas Catlow, who was serving in the Canterbury Regiment, was killed on 14 June, 1917, a week after the Battle of Messines.

“We had no idea that we’d lost Thomas in the First World War. He has no known grave, so I will pay my respects to him at the New Zealand Memorial to the Missing at Messines,” Staff Sergeant Higginson said.

He will also visit the grave of another great-uncle, Rifleman Arthur Webbly, who was killed in December 1917, only a month after joining the 3rd New Zealand (Rifle) Brigade in the field. He is buried in Polygon Wood Cemetery, close to Passchendaele.

“It’s been an exciting but very sad experience researching my family history and I feel very honoured to have the opportunity to pay respects to both Arthur and Thomas on behalf of my family,” Staff Sergeant Higginson said.

This page was last reviewed on 7 February 2019.