Centenary organisation WW100 New Zealand is marking the wartime bond forged with the people of Belgium

'Celebrating Compassion' - Remembering New Zealand's WW1 aid to Belgium

Posted on centenarynews.com on 12 September 2017
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Ahead of New Zealand's Battle of Passchendaele commemorations in October, New Zealanders are also being encouraged to remember their humanitarian support for Belgium during the First World War.

The plight of those living in the war zones drove many New Zealanders to volunteer their services and donate money to help the war effort.

More than £800,000 (estimated to be equivalent to around $NZ100 million today) was raised for a relief fund to feed and clothe the people of German-occupied Belgium.

"Socks were knitted, clothing donated, and fundraisers held – New Zealanders rallied together to show compassion towards those on the other side of the world," says Libby Masterton, Director of WW100 New Zealand.

"WW100 has been inspired by the 33 women in New Zealand who were awarded the Queen Elisabeth Medal by the Belgian government in honour of their outstanding services in providing aid to Belgian refugees during the First World War."

The Queen Elisabeth Medal honoured women who devoted themselves to the humanitarian aid of Belgian civilians and soldiers (Image courtesy of WW100 New Zealand)

These women included Mary Wick, who dedicated herself to selling vegetables and flowers from her Takapuna garden to raise funds; Elizabeth Pinfold, who wrote to newspapers all over the country calling for donations and Mary Downie-Stewart, who organised volunteers to send clothing to Belgian refugees.

"WW100 wants to shine a spotlight on these women and others, who in extremely difficult circumstances, still made it their duty to support the Belgians," Libby Masterton continues. 

Reflecting that compassion of a century ago, WW100 has been asking New Zealanders to consider what compassion means to them, and to get involved by creating related projects, activities or events.

Masterton explains: "It could be as simple as donating food or pre-loved goods to your local charity, celebrating someone in your local community who is providing compassion to others, or organising a coin trail at your school or business." 

Watch a commemorative video here.

Girls from Palmerston North's Scandinavian Club raising funds to help Belgium (Image courtesy of Palmerston North Libraries and Community Services)

NZ October 2017 events

New Zealand's national commemorations marking the Battle of Passchendaele Centenary will be held in Belgium on 12 October 2017. There'll be a remembrance service at Tyne Cot Cemetery, and a sunset ceremony at Buttes New British Cemetery, Polygon Wood. Access to these events is not balloted – they are open to anyone wishing to commemorate New Zealand’s military service. For details see New Zealand WW100.

The New Zealand Division's attack on 12 October 1917, during the later stages of the Third Battle of Ypres, is remembered as the darkest day in the country's post-1840 history. More than 840 lives were lost in the assault on Bellevue Spur, part of the Allied drive to take Passchendaele ridge.

Details of all Passchedaele Centenary events & projects in Flanders, including forthcoming Australian and Canadian commemorations, can be found on the Passchendaele 2017 website.

See also Silent City Meets Living City - illuminated tribute at Tyne Cot Cemetery.

Source: WW100 New Zealand

Images courtesy of WW100 NZ; Palmerston North Libraries and Community Services (archive photo)

Posted by: CN Editorial Team