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Remembering Passchendaele

  • July 7th, 2007
  • Posted by EUEditor

tyne-cot.jpgThis week marks the beginning of commemorations for the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele, in Flanders, one of the important and most costly of the First World War.

MAJOR EVENTS

Heads of state of countries engaged in the battle, or their representatives, including the Australian Governor General, Maj. Gen. Michael Jeffery, are expected to take part in events, which begin on Thursday (12.7.07) with the official opening of a visitors’ centre and museum at the famous Tyne Cot military cemetery.

BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE

The Battle of Passchendaele started in July 1917 when allied armies inside the embattled Belgian city of Ieper (Ypres) — the Ieper Salient – broke out and made a drive towards the sea.

The heroic drive to capture the Channel ports did not succeed; the Divisions attacked heavily fortified German defences, and sustained great losses; but several events in the battle created military milestones.

All of the Australian Divisions were brought into the conflict around the village of Zonnerbeke; pushing uphill to capture the Broonsinde ridge, where the Tyne Cot cemetery now stands.

Many are buried there.

They were followed by Canadian troops who later pushed on further to capture Passchendaele itself, before the offensive came to a halt.

LAST POST

Visitors reflecting on the start of the battle in the heat of Summer, July 1917, this week will also be invited to the Menin Gate memorial inside the town of Ieper, to hear the Last Post.

It will be the eightieth anniversary of the time it was first played by buglers from the town, in tribute to the British and other allies who fought there; they continue with it.

EVENTS FOR VISITORS

The commemorations are to continue for more than three months, the duration of the battle, ending with an international parade through the Passchendaele main square, on 10.11.07.

(It will be the day before Remembrance Day, with further observances, this year as the anniversary of both Passchendaele and, forty years ago, the battle of Long Tan in Vietnam).

The towns of , Zonnebeke, Ieper, Heuvelland and Mesen, in Western Flanders, will be hosting a program of events.

“ANZAC WEEKEND” IN OCTOBER

An “ANZAC Weekend” for Australia and New Zealand will start on Thursday 4.10.07 with a service at Tyne Cot.

There’ll be an official dinner the next day with a menu prepared by Australian, Belgian and New Zealand chefs; an Aboriginal performance, and a military re-enactment along the route taken by the Australian 3rd Division, under fire, along an old railway line, leading up to the Broodsinde ridge.

The route now has a constructed walkway with explanatory signs located near concrete bunkers and field gravesites.
Local historians have been excavating key sites along the way; a small company of young people from the towns has been parading in World War One Australian uniforms – wearing shoulder badges of the Third Division which made the main assault along the rail line.

MUSEUMS, FOOTBALL AND A CONFERENCE

The Memorial Passchendaele Museum will have an exhibition called “The Road to Passchendaele – Excavations on an old railway”, which is intended for a tour later in Australia.

At the Tyne Cot visitor centre the permanent exhibition of items belonging to Australian soldiers will be supplemented by a CD-Rom telling their story, available to the public as a souvenir.

Organisers have been planning an Australia – New Zealand Juniors Rugby Union match for the weekend; participants will be in the age range of the thousands of young soldiers who did not make it home.

At the end of the year of commemorations a conference will take place at the very large “In Flanders Fields” Museum, in Ieper, dedicated to the Battle of Passchendaele, with historians from around the world, including Australia.

Reference:

Details are available from the Australian Embassy in Brussels: http://www.dfat.gov.au/missions/countries/be.html; [email protected] , tel. +32 2 286 05 11/04.

Passchendaele Museum: www.passchendaele.be

Picture: Australian war graves at Tyne Cot cemetery

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