Prince William commemorates New Zealand soldiers who fell at Passchendaele

New Zealand Engineers resting in a large shell hole at Spree Farm Ypres Salient 12 October 1917

ALEXANDER TUNRBULL LIBRARY Ref 1/2-012935-G New Zealand Engineers resting in a large shell hole at Spree Farm Ypres Salient 12 October 1917

Today's commemoration marks the centenary of 12 October 1917, a date which became known at the "darkest day" for New Zealand's armed forces.

Another 2000 were wounded or taken prisoner.

The Duke met with representatives of the New Zealand Parliament and government at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Flanders, which is run by the War Graves Commission, which has responsibility for the burial space. "We remember the courage and sacrifice of these fearless men in atrocious conditions and pay tribute to their service to our country and the values they stood for", Dr Smith says. "These tragic campaigns contributed to New Zealand having the highest per capita loss of life of any country during WW1". "No part of New Zealand was untouched by loss".

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Princess Astrid thanked New Zealanders for their sacrifice when her country was destroyed by war.

The New Zealand Defence force performed at the Last Post Ceremony this morning (NZ time) at Menin Gate, Belgium.

"As inscriptions on New Zealand memorials across the Western Front read, "They came from the uttermost ends of the earth", Mr Carter said. "These soldiers were from places that could not be more distant from where we stand now".

Behind the New Zealand troops weapons misfired when the soft dirt gave way beneath the guns, that killed their own men and failed to break through barbed wire fences.

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The battle on October 12 proved to be particularly deadly for New Zealand, as they tried to capture Bellevue Spur, battling not only German forces but also the rain-soaked bog of what had once been rich farm fields.

Tyne Cot cemetery is the largest Commonwealth burial ground in the world, with 11,971 servicemen buried and remembered there - 8,373 of whom are unidentified. The memorial is dedicated to 35,000 soldiers who died in the Ypres region after August 1917, whose graves are unknown.

"The huge losses New Zealand suffered on the Western Front during World War 1 exceeded those for all other battles and all other wars, with Passchendaele being the worst".

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