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New Zealand's darkest day remembered in 2017

Ministers’ release: 1 March 2017

Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry says New Zealand’s darkest day during World War 1 will be remembered as part of WW100’s 2017 programme.

 “This year attention turns from Gallipoli to the Western Front.  The Battle of Messines in June and the devastating Battle of Passchendaele in October will both be commemorated here and overseas, in ceremonies which will be open to all with no ballot or restrictions on numbers” Ms Barry says.

“It was during the Battle of Passchendaele where the New Zealand Division suffered its darkest day, with the loss of 842 New Zealand soldiers.”

“These Western Front centenaries are very significant to our history and are a time for us to reflect on what our country was going through on the home front 100 years ago.”

As well as these key battles, the WW100 Programme’s 2017 theme The Grind of War will also explore how the shortage of labour, conscription woes, the rising cost of living and industrial unrest heightened the tension at home.

“Long years at war had had an enormous impact on those on the frontline of course but it was also devastating here at home for New Zealand families, communities, workplaces and schools. WW100’s 2017 programme this year will reflect on the battles and also what New Zealanders at home – including those opposing war – were facing in 1917,” Ms Barry says.

Commemoration details:

  • New Zealand’s contribution at the Battle of Messines will be commemorated on 7 June 2017 in Mesen, Belgium. There will be a national ceremony commencing at 8 a.m. in Messines Ridge British Cemetery and conclude with a sunset ceremony at the New Zealand Battlefield Memorial.
  • On 12 October 2017, New Zealand will commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele with a national ceremony at Tyne Cot Cemetery, near Zonnebeke, Belgium, at 11 a.m. The day will conclude with a sunset ceremony in Buttes New British Ceremony in Polygon Wood.
  • There will also be national ceremonies for both the centenaries of Messines and Passchendaele at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington.

For more information about this year’s First World War centenary commemorations, visit

To find out more about the WW100 programme, visit

Updated on 17th March 2017