Archive for October 9th, 2017

NZ Memorial

October 9, 2017

We had to find our way from the 9 Elms Cemetery to the NZ Memorial which is located at Gravenstafel very near where Roy Snr was wounded. We hopped into the car and tried to set the GPS to take us there, well, you know what is coming next don’t you? The GPS did not recognise the road at all, we tried various spellings all without success. The road, according to Mr Google and our printed instructions, was called ‘S Gravenstafel but no matter what we did we could not find it.

We were doing all of this whilst parked on the side of the road not far from the 9 Elms cemetery, when in front of us two cars pulled in so Roy went to see them to see if they knew where to go. Sure enough some of them were locals and yes, if we followed them they would take us to the NZ Memorial. But first Roy and I were desperate to find a toilet, there was a petrol station just a few hundred metres along the road, so we said we would go ahead, use the facilities and keep an eye out for them and follow them. But it was even better than that, we had just hopped back into the car at the petrol station when both cars turned up beside us with the driver gesticulating for us to follow.

We arrived in good time at the NZ Memorial after being led through back roads, around more barriers to a parking area not far from the Memorial. It turned out that the men were actually some of the Flag bearers for the ceremonies, I greeted them all with a hug and a kiss on both cheeks with profuse thanx for saving my stress levels from rising to new heights!!! We got talking to one of the men, it turns out that he was a Belgian who had just retired from 38years of service in the Bomb Squad responsible for deactivating the bombs, explosive devices, grenades and gas canisters that are dug up daily in the battlefields around this area. He showed us one badly burnt and scarred hand and a photo of himself in hospital from two years ago wrapped up like a mummy after a device exploded in his hand. He is lucky to not only be alive but not to have much more serious scarring on his face and body. He explained to us the area where Roy Snr would have been injured and gave us lots of background information to what happened. He was also wearing a replica jersey from the Original All Blacks such was his empathy for all things New Zealand and the sacrifices made by men from the other side of the world for his country.

Roy and our new friend.

You will note in the above picture the name of the road on the sign above Roy, complete with local spelling…

There is no “s” before the t, no wonder the GPS could not find it!!!

Program for the service

Again, the ceremony was dignified and moving, with local input being particularly poignant. I managed to find a seat next to some fellow kiwis who were there as members of the Passchendaele society, two of the women were also representing their father who served with the 28th Māori Battalion in the Second World War.

We chatted after the ceremony before walking down the road to the cheese factory where drinks and nibbles were awaiting us. Our new Belgium friends walked down the road with us, again showing us where particular conflicts took place and indicated the location of Abraham Heights, where Roy Snr was wounded.

At the reception we met Willie Apiata again, what a gentle, humble and respectful man he is and always happy to talk to people and have his photo taken or being asked for his autograph.

Willie Apiata and Roy

We sat with the people we had just met at the ceremony, after a long chat they gave us a parting gift each. For me some mini Poi and for Roy a Maori Battalion badge.

We left the reception after a while to return to our accommodation in Langemark-Poelkapelle.