There was standing room only in the WWI Hall of Memories at Auckland War Memorial Museum today as the 95th anniversary of the deadliest day in New Zealand's military history was commemorated.
Members of the military, local council, government and the general public gathered to honour the 2,700 casualties during the Battle of Passchendaele on October 12, 1917.
A service has taken place at the museum every year since 2007, when former prime minister Helen Clark signed the Ypres Agreement with the Flemish government promoting their shared history in the world wars of the 20th century.
In his address today Massey University Professor of War Studies Glyn Harper said New Zealanders were starting to appreciate their military history.
"I think we're getting better at remembering our military history but I think we've still got a long way to go. War is the destroyer of families and the Battle of Passchendaele destroyed more families than any other action in our military history."
Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer's great uncle was killed at the Battle of Messines leading up to the Battle of Passchendaele.
"I think it goes to show just how close the connection still is. The fact that even someone relatively young like me can have a great uncle that was killed in Belgium demonstrates that the wounds are still there."
Former Labour leader Phil Goff, representing party leader David Shearer, was one of many people to lay a wreath.
He said the day should be about remembering the sacrifices without glorifying deaths.
"I lost two great uncles in the war. They made an enormous sacrifice for our country. Gallipoli was a tragedy but Passchendaele was even worse.
"Over 800 people died just within the first four hours of battle. We can't imagine the horror those men felt going into a solid wall of machine gun fire.
"For all New Zealanders it's a day to remember," he said.
The Passchendaele Society invited the winners of the Fairfax young readers competition - Ruben Ross, Alice Foulds and Passchendaele Akeroa Hurrican Bristow - to lay poppies.
Passchendaele is named after his father. As his mother died last year, his poppy was sprayed with her perfume.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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