Today, October 12 2017, is the centennial commemoration of the Battle of Passchendaele. Records indicate that 843 New Zealand soldiers died that day in 1917, including at least 7 North Otago servicemen.
Some were fortunate enough to survive the horrors of that battle. One of those men was Andy Dewar. The Waitaki District Archive has a copy of his diary [2015/155].
He wrote “Passchendaele!! That name almost makes me vomit!”
He writes about the shells, the mud, dead and wounded men. “It was a proper slaughter! Men were mown down like corn.”
“A sergeant on my left was wounded and died with two more bullets in him before we could get him to cover. He was in agony and wanted us to cut his throat!”
Andy goes on to document stretcher bearing the next day and later the roll call, with only 11 of his platoon present (usually around 50 men.)
While the story of the Gallipoli landing is perhaps better known, it is 12 October at Passchendaele that remains, in terms of lives lost, the worst day in New Zealand’s military history.