In Flanders Fields

Tomorrow marks 98 years since the end of World War One. At 11.11am, on November 11, 1918, a ceasefire was called that ended over four years of fighting.

I recently visited Ypres (Ieper), in Belgium. Part of the town walls is the Menin Gate memorial.

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Menin Gate memorial, Ypres

Within this memorial are recorded the names of 54,395 Commonwealth soldiers whose bodies were never found. New Zealand soldiers are not listed here – at the time, the decision was made to record New Zealanders in separate monuments in cemeteries closer to where they fell.

On the town walls of Ypres is a small Commonwealth War Graves cemetery, containing 198 graves. There are 14 New Zealand graves here, of members of the Māori Battalion and the Army Engineers.

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Ramparts Cemetery, Lille Gate, Ypres

Ypres itself was almost completely flattened during the fighting. After the war, there were some calls to make the town a memorial. The people of Ypres, however, wanted their town back, just the way it was. It was strange to walk around and see ‘old’ buildings, and then realize that the date over the door is 1927.

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Ypres Cloth Hall, 1919
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And today.

If you’d like to know more about World War One, and in particular the Pioneer (Māori) Battalion, try some of our library resources:

Te Ara: Encyclopedia of New Zealand – First World War

Te Ara: Encyclopedia of New Zealand – Māori and overseas wars

Te mura o te ahi : the story of the Maori Battalion

 

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