The New Zealand Memorial at Messines Ridge CWGC cemetery (Photo: Centenary News)

New Zealand's latest WW1 trail guide follows the Western Front

Posted on on 28 October 2015
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New Zealand has released its latest interactive guide to First World War battlefields of particular significance for New Zealanders, this time exploring the Western Front.

Five of the trails are in Belgium, focussing on Passchendaele and Messines, while four others in France delve into the Arras tunnels and tell the story of the Somme. 

There's also a trail in the UK remembering former New Zealand hospitals and training camps.

The guides are available on computers, mobiles/cellphones, and tablets.

"The trails are a fascinating way of exploring the past, blending audio narratives, maps, photographs, background information, oral history, original accounts, and practical travel information into a single, accessible resource," says Neill Atkinson, Chief Historian for New Zealand's Culture & Heritage Ministry. 

The launch of the guide, Ngā Tapuwae Western Front, follows the release of a similar guide to Gallipoli in March 2015 for the centenary of the Dardenelles campaign.

Audio guide to the Passchendaele battlefield, from 'Ngā Tapuwae Western Front' (Image: WW100 New Zealand)

'Ngā Tapuwae' is a Maori expression, encouraging New Zealanders to follow 'in the footsteps' of those who went before.

The guides are narrated by Chris Pugsley, a former New Zealand soldier who's now a militrary historian specialising in the Great War.  

"I had walked the ground many times over the last 35 year, he says. "But it was interesting to work out how to tell key stories in short cogent sound bites and in words that would make New Zealand's achievements in both defeat and victory come alive, not just for my generation but for generations to follow."

As well as the battlefields, the guide goes behind the front line, exploring the sites where soldiers trained, were treated for their wounds, or relaxed during breaks from the fighting.

Neill Atkinson says:"The trails help us understand the ordeal that many of our ancestors endured on the Western Front by transporting people back in time. 

"Visiting the peaceful rural landscapes and quaint villages of the Somme or Flanders today, it can be hard to imagine that these were once devastated war zones." 

'Ngā Tapuwae Western Front' features the letters and diaries of New Zealand soldiers, nurses and civilians (Image: WW100 New Zealand)

Maggie Barry, New Zealand's Culture & Heritage Minister, has recorded the narrations of soldiers' personal stories - as she did for Ngā Tapuwae Gallipoli.

"I offered to narrate in memory of my grandfather, who was a veteran of the Sinai Campaign, " she explains.

"Introducing the personal stories of the soldiers who fought in battles where there were horrific deaths and casualties, and the impact on those they left behind, was a very moving experience."

Both guides have been produced by New Zealand's First World War Centenary organisation, WW100.

Director Sarah Davies says  the release of Ngā Tapuwae Western Front is timely: “In 2016 our centenary commemorations will move from Gallipoli to the Western Front. Next year there will be ceremonies in both New Zealand and in France to commemorate the 100th Anzac Day and the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme."

Soldiers of the Otago Regiment remembered at Messines Ridge (Photo: Centenary News)

New Zealand's First World War trails on the Western Front and Gallipoli can be explored on the Ngā Tapuwae website, via computers, mobiles/cellphones and tablet devices. Apps and e-books are available to download; guides can also be printed.

Source: WW100 New Zealand

Ngā Tapuwae images courtesy of WW100 New Zealand; New Zealand Memorial Messines Ridge images - Centenary News

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News