Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Passchendaele remembered

Recently I've been reading Glyn Harper's superb account of the New Zealand experience of Passchendaele. I've written here before about the Battle of Passchendaele and its horrific toll on New Zealanders.

This current reading came close to home—quite literally. At the back of the book is a list of names from the Memorial to the Missing at Tyne Cot Cemetery. To quote Harper: "The memorial bears the names of 1,179 New Zealanders who fell in the Passchendaele battles and whose bodies were never recovered."

I was going through this list, noting ages and what I could glean of personal circumstances, when the address of a next-of-kin sprang off the page. It's a short walk from our little apartment in town, in an area with many surviving Victorian houses, and a place I've walked past hundreds of times.

This house was built in the 1880s, and its exterior looks to have survived relatively unchanged. In October 1917 a telegram arrived for the widow who lived here. It told her that her son had been killed on the other side of the world. He was one of the 17,000 New Zealanders killed in the Great War.

I'll think of that young man, and of his grieving mother, every time I walk past her house.

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