'Imagine the fear, the exhaustion, the longing for home' - 1 NEWS reporter on the sobering horrors of Passchendaele


Standing on the ground where underneath us, literally in the dirt below, lie the remains of our men. It is beyond sobering.

Europe correspondent Joy Reid attended the official commemoration service at Passchendaele today.
Source: 1 NEWS

Then looking at the rows, and I mean several long rows of Kiwi headstones of men who were my age when they died, reinforces the Kiwi cost here on the Western Front – especially on October 12, 1917.

Even more confronting is seeing the gravestones that simply say "A New Zealand Soldier of the Great War". Only God knows who's buried there.

To be honest (and I'm almost ashamed to admit it) my knowledge of what actually happened at Passchendaele was rather limited, until now. I knew it was a failed military attempt but I had no idea of the true horror and cost to the New Zealand sons.

1 NEWS Europe correspondent Joy Reid is in Passchendaele as the horrific battle is remembered 100 years on.
Source: Breakfast
Today marks 100 years since 846 Kiwi soldiers lost their lives in the Battle of Passchendaele.
Source: 1 NEWS

What I've discovered has shocked me.

It was an ill-planned offensive where the enemy was not just the German gunfire, but just as lethal were the elements.

It had rained solidly for more than a week and the mud became as much an enemy as the oncoming bullets. It was the elements that defeated them as much as the Germans did.

It was thick and porridge-like, and when men fell into it, it was sometimes impossible to save them – men literally drowned in it.

One historian told me the mud was so thick that men got sucked into it, and it created a vacuum underneath them - that made it too dangerous for them to be rescued.

It was so bad that men would ask their comrades to shoot them knowing that the alternative was drowning a horrible death in the mud. They are some of the bodies that were never recovered, that lie in the fields where we stood today.

There is nothing to celebrate about war, but the stories of men who drowned in mud seems to have truly hit home to me the horrors of the Great War.

In one of New Zealand's darkest days, 846 Kiwi soldiers lost their lives in the World War I battle.
Source: 1 NEWS

I imagine the fear, the exhaustion, the longing for home, and then seeing your comrades killed.

As a wife, a mother, a sister, I can't help think of the price those back home paid too - the heartache they endured long past October 12, 1917.

In one single day, on October 12, 1917, 846 men died in a matter of hours - another 120 died in the days after due to injuries sustained, making it still to this day the worst day in New Zealand's military history.

A day, now that I’ve stood here, I will honour and never forget.

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