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Remembered Today:

New Zealand Memorials to the missing


Beselare

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I am often asked the question about why there are no names of New Zeland 'missing' soldiers on the Menin Gate. I believe that after the war, the New Zealand government made a specific request for their 'missing' memorials to be built near where their soldiers were actually killed, but does anyone know the reason for this? (The only suggestion I have had so far is that this particular government was left-wing and wanted to be different, but I don't think that is the correct answer).

Many thanks

Bob Findley

Belgium

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Interesting question! I found the article below reprinted from The Times in a New Zealand newspaper.

From Evening Post 5.1.1929

"WAR MEMORIALS

IN MANY CEMETERIES HONOUR TO MISSING WORK NEARLY COMPLETED

The work of the Imperial War Graves Commission in the various distant theatres of the war is described in detail in the special number of '' The Times," issued last Armistice Day. […]

THE MISSING.

The Governments of the Empire had decided through the Commission that the names of those who had no known graves should be recorded in stone in the areas where they fell. It was suggested at one time that headstones bearing their names should be erected in the cemeteries, but there was an overwhelming feeling against the false impression which might thus be created. So it was decided that separate memorials should be erected for the purpose.

New Zealand, with forces which were never broken up and separated during the war, had records which enabled her to commemorate these in the cemetery near which each of them fell; but for the other Dominions this was impracticable. They therefore finally agreed, on the advice of the Commission, after long and careful discussion with their Governments, to combine these memorials with the battlefield memorials commemorating feats of arms for which there was a strong public demand. The United Kingdom, indeed, decided to have no other national battle memorials than those which the Commission would build on the battlefields to commemorate her missing dead. This part of the Commission's activities assumed very large proportions.

The Menin Gate is typical of the result, and is especially interesting as it is the only one of these memorials in France and Belgium on which all parts of the Empire, with the exception of New Zealand for reasons explained above, are represented. […]"

Searches of digitised NZ newspapers at Papers Past will no doubt bring up more results which might add a bit of flesh to this explanation.

Joanna

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There used to be a webpage which detailed the location and description of WW1 NZ Memorials but it seems to have vanished>

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Dear Jo and Peter

Thank you for your responses. The newspaper article says that this explains why the New Zealanders have separate memorials but I'm blowed if I can make it out. Am I missing something? The three memorials on the Ypres Salient are at Polygon Wood for the missing in the Battle of Polygon Wood, Messines for the Battle of Messines, and Tyne Cot for the battles of Passchendaele and Broodeeinde Ridge which are both within a mile of Tyne Cot. So it seems the sites were specifically chosen for the three separate battles but why avoid having the names on the Menin Gate?

Regards

Bob

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Bob

In addition to memorials naming the missing, New Zealand also have the obelisk type memorials at s'Gravenstafel, Messines, Longueval and the huge one at Chunuk Bair (hope I haven't missed one !)

All of which bear the emotive "From the uttermost ends of the earth"

The names on the Menin Gate commemorate all who were killed in the Ypres Salient (continued at the Tyne Cot Memorial) This is not what New Zealand wanted, hence they are not on this memorial.

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Hi,

The memorials are all in cemeteries chosen as appropriate to the fighting in which the men died.

Additional ones are:

- Cite Bonjean Cemetery Memorial - Contains the names of 47 New Zealanders who died in the Armentieres area and have no known grave

- Caterpillar Valley Memorial - Contains the names of over 1200 New Zealanders who died in the Somme battles and have no known grave

- Grevillers Memorial - Contains the names of 446 New Zealanders killed in battles during 1918 and have no known grave

- Marfaux Memorial - Contains the names of 10 Cycle Battalion men who died in 1918 and have no known grave.

- Messines Memoria - Contains the names of 827 New Zealanders who died in the area during 1917 & 1918

I'll add some photographs this evening.

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Hi everyone

Thanks for all the information so far. The real question remains as to why the New Zealand government rejected the Menin Gate for those killed in the Ypres Salient (sorry for being so pedantic).

Regards

Bob

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Hi,

I've been trawling through the papers past site to see if I can find a newspaper report that may shed some light. But so far, nothing concrete.

New Zealand names do feature on the memorial at Tyne Cot, albeit, in a enclosed alcove.

Personally, I believe memorials were errected in the region of the battles that the NZEF took part because it is more poignant.

Edit: Another possible reason may have been to ensure all the names were distinguisable to those who visit. Some panels on the Menin Gate and Theipval are so high as to make them unreadable.

I'll keep searching though.

Cheers

Grant

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Hello,

I found this long article about Sir James Allen's visit to the memorials at Gallipoli in 1923. Though not about the memorials in France (edit - or Belgium!), the article is very interesting, and the last paragraph gives an explanation:

The High Commissioner holds strongly the view that the names of the missing should be recorded as near as possible to the place where they fell, or in a cemetery selected in a group nearest to where they fell, because they ought to rest close to their comrades, and because they ought to be under the sanctity of the Cross and the Stone of Remembrance. Sir James does not agree with the view that the names should be recorded on memorials altogether outside the cemeteries. The design for the Stone of Remembrance for the Gallipoli Cemeteries is not like the design of those erected in France, neither is it so high. It has a large stone backing with a plain cross cut into the stone, and there are side wings which stand away from the centre panel. The inscription will read: "Their name liveth for evermore."

Grant, do you think the mention of the Gallipoli cemeteries Stones of Remembrance not being as 'high' as those in France is about ensuring the names would be legible?

Joanna

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Hi Joanna,

You beat me to it. It's an interesting article and I think it explains the Governments stance. Especially as Sir James Allen seemed to generally get what he wanted (Personal Inscriptions on NZEF headstones being another example).

For information, as far as I can recall, there are only two cemeteries on the Gallipoli peninsula containing memorials to New Zealanders with no known grave (Omitting Lone Pine and Hill 60 as the names are on the Obelisks and not the panels of the side wings of the Stone of Sacrifice)

- Chunuk Bair

- Twelve Tree Copse (Krithia battles)

The names on these are around waste height and perfectly legible. But of course, the number of names is far less than the memorials in France & Belgium.

I've attached a few photographs as examples of the Gallipoli memorials.

Hill 60

Twelve Tree Copse, with the stone of sacrifice (containing the memorial) in the background

Cheers

post-19785-0-95036000-1304528832.jpg

post-19785-0-66469600-1304528911.jpg

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There is, of course, a small inscription on the Menin Gate explaining where to find the NZ missing in the Salient. The Menin Gate seems to have been planned as an 'Imperial' memorial to the missing, so presumably that is why NZ gets a mention, even if there are no names carved on it. Were there any NZ troops in the Salient pre August 1917, I wonder - Messines for sure, but the Salient? The Australians at least had their tunnellers in the Salient proper prior to that date. But this is just an observation, as it is not relevant; the vast majority of the Australian casulaties would have been post August 17.

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Bit further south than the Salient but here's the Kiwi memorial to the missing at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval. Pics were taken during my visit to the area in July 2010.

post-53536-0-28708000-1304564104.jpg

post-53536-0-29352100-1304564105.jpg

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Gday Bob

Bloody Kiwi non-conformists...

Everything i have read states simply it was decided by the Government that memorials to missing New Zealanders would be sited where ever possible as near to the actual battlefield where they fell, so that their names would be recorded as close as possible to where their bodies most probably lay and importantly next to their mates with marked graves. because - as stated above by Grant- the NZ division had never been split up, it was therefore easy and practical to do this.

Ian McGibbons book New Zealand Battlefields and Memorials of the Western Front states "The NZ Government decided in May 1921 that there would be four national Battlefield memorials on the Western Front: at Passchendaele, Messines, the Somme and Le Qesnoy." there are also as Grant has stated Memorials to the missing which are not sited next to these national memorials.

Philip longworth's book The Unending Vigil on the history of the CWGC states recording the difficulties in establishing the Menin Gate page 90 " ...At last, in June 1921 the Commissioners, with only the New Zealand representative dissenting, accepted the idea that their memorial to the missing at Ypres should take the form of an architectural monument."

if you read across to page 91 it gives clarification that it was infact the intention of the commisioners to have "eighty five... cemetery memorials" to the missing and that this had been reduced to "twelve monuments spread along the battle line from Nieuport ... to Soissons" and that these would now be larger and more impressive... "this was a compromise between commemorating the missing geographically, according to the places where they had fallen, and historically according to the periods of the major actions of the war. But for the New Zealand representative this was to depart too far from the plan initially agreed. In reply Ware could only repeat that the original idea had proved impracticable."

The book then goes on to state that trying to work out who died where was a logisical nightmare as units and divisions had been split up and reformed and these records had never been formed with the intention of easily extracting this information ..."however, this difficulty did not apply to New Zealand. Whereas most units had been split up, disbanded and reformed, her forces had remained intact throughtout the war. Not only were the lists of her missing dead already availiable, so were the places where each had died"

So the answer in short is - unless you want to go down to the Government library in Wellington and trawl through the debating records on the subject in May 1921 - that the Kiwi memorials are what was originally intented for all, it however was dropped for the mass memorials to the missing.

Personally i think the Menin gate is fantastic, it is an inspiring and humbling monument, on my first visit I felt sad that NZ missing was not listed there, but when i visited the cemeteries i changed my mind. The Kiwi Government got this decision fundimentally right, men should be recorded where they fell and next to their mates. and i kind of like the Kiwi non-comformist way it is different.

I think however they completely stuffed up on the 'no inscriptions on grave stones'...

Rodg

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Hi Roger

I thought it was the Aussies who were the traditional troublemakers, not the Kiwis? The facts you have written are extremely interesting and go a very long way to answering my question. I imagine that trawling through those 1921 minutes would be an arduous task.

In all the reading I have done, Major-General Sir Andrew Russell seemed to be in very regular contact with James Allen, the NZ Minister of Defence and I would think that Allen was the most informed Defence Minister out of all the allied forces. No doubt after the war that kind of regular contact would have had an influence on the ministers making the decision about the siting of the memorials and perhaps made them more adamant in their final decision.

Ko taku tino hiahia ko te ai

Bob

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