Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Today is the anniversary of what was, in terms of lives lost in a single day, the greatest disaster in New Zealand history. On the 12th of October 1917, during the Battle of Passchendale, 2,700 New Zealanders were killed or wounded. More on the battle can be found here.

Last year I went to an exhibition commemorating Passchendaele, sent to New Zealand by the Passchendaele Memorial Museum in Belgium. It was held at Fort Takapuna, from where some of the departing soldiers were deployed. On the grounds of the fort over 5,000 white crosses had been set up, one for every New Zealander killed in Flanders.

My work-in-progress has some of my characters being caught up in this battle. It's not really a spoiler to say that at least one will die there, because I could not claim to be at all realistic without reflecting something of the tragedy surrounding Passchendaele. Oddly enough, I have no sense that I'm "killing off" a character here; the death feels as inevitable as the events that drag these boys to Belgium. Foolish as it may sound, I do sometimes cry over characters who die; all the more so when it's one I've "known" since he was a child.

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