In the annals of military history, the World War One battle of Passchendaele is recorded as New Zealand’s worst military disaster.
In just a few short hours on a miserable Belgian morning over 1000 New Zealand soldiers were killed and a further 2000 wounded in an attack on the German front line. Yet the story of this tragic loss of life has not been told fully — until now.
In Massacre at Passchendaele, Glyn Harper brings this ill-fated battle to life. The background to the situation facing the Allies in October 1917 is outlined, and the first assault on Passchendaele is described. This near-perfect military operation brought the New Zealand soldiers much acclaim. However, the second attack, on 12 October 1917, was anything but successful. The rationale of the strategists, the concern of some officers and the desperation of the fighting man are all recorded here. Judicious use of diary extracts and recorded interviews transport the reader to the centre of this harrowing event. An appendix lists the names and details of the New Zealand soldiers killed at Passchendaele, a tribute to their sacrifice.
The military disaster of Passchendaele was a pivotal event in New Zealand’s history, and a key influence on our attitudes to war in the following decades. This book will help ensure that it remains an untold story no longer.
Glyn Harper is Professor of War Studies at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand. He is now General Editor of the Centenary History of the New Zealand and the First World War. A former teacher, he joined the Australian Army in 1988 and after eight years transferred to the New Zealand Army, where he rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Glyn was the army’s official historian for the deployment to East Timor and is the author of eighteen books which include Kippenberger: An inspired New Zealand Commander; In the Face of the Enemy: the complete history of the Victoria Cross and New Zealand; Dark Journey: Three Key Battles of the Western Front; Images of War: World War One: A Photographic Record of New Zealanders at War 1914-1918 and his most recent Letters from Gallipoli: New Zealand Soldiers Write Home.