22nd Battalion 2NZEF
"Vrai et Fort"
The Battle of Passchendale was fought in late 1917, an event in which more New Zelanders lost their lives in one day than in any other battle. The 90th anniversary was attended by a small contingent of New Zealanders, including the Prime Minister of the time the Hon Helen Clark. Ten veterans were included in the party, the oldest being a member of the 22nd Battalion - Doug Froggatt.
The name Passchendaele is synonymous with images of sinking mud, shell holes filled with water, and vast expanse of barren wasteland. The Third Battle of Ypres, also known as Passchendaele, was one of the major battles of World War I, fought by British, ANZAC and Canadian soldiers against the German Army in 1917. The aim of the battle was to break through the German defences and capture Passchendaele Ridge then drive north to the Belgian coast and capture the German submarine bases there. After three months of fierce fighting the town was finally taken by the Canadian forces, but the allies suffered almost half a million casualties, and the Germans almost a quarter of a million. Allied soldiers who lost their lives at Passchendaele are commemorated at the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing and at the Tyne Cot and neighbouring Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries. Tyne Cot is the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in the world with nearly 12,000 graves, including 519 New Zealanders, 322 of them unidentified.
Passchendale 2007 - the 90th Commemoration - and the 22nd Battalion was represented
During 2007 the Prime Minister the Hon Helen Clark announced an official commemoration service for the 90th anniversary of New Zealand's involvement in the Battle of Passchendale. The plan was to take a small number of veterans on the trip, those who had some family connection with the battle or more generally with the Western Front.
Ten veterans were accepted for the tour, with only two - one being Doug Froggatt - representing WWII veterans. This is his story and photos of the event.
Television News Items
The event at Passchendale was well covered by the news media, including television. here is a TV3 newsclip.
Press Release by NZDF
NZ Veterans Remember Passchendaele
Douglas Froggatt from Tauranga places a poppy on the grave of a friend's relative at Underhill Farm Cemetery in Belgium.
10 October 2007
Ten veterans from as far afield as Kamo to Geraldine travelled to Belgium recently to attend a number of ceremonies to mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele. The Battle of Passchendaele on October 12 1917 was the most tragic day in New Zealand’s military history; in just two hours more than 2800 men were killed, wounded or listed as missing in action. The veterans delegation were among a large gathering of New Zealanders including the Prime Minister Helen Clark, who attended a special Anzac service held at Tyne Cot cemetery, October 4 to mark the 90th anniversary of Passchendaele. While in Belgium the group have a programme of activities which includes battlefield tours, visits to significant New Zealand gravesites and watching a commemorative rugby match between the London New Zealand team and an invitation French team. On Saturday the group visited Longueval and Caterpillar Valley cemetery where the Unknown Warrior was brought from to New Zealand. World War Two veteran Douglas Froggatt (85) of Tauranga said the trip had been very thought provoking causing him to ask what was it all for. He said, “I am impressed at how well the gravesites are tended. New Zealand has left a permanent mark here. He enjoyed visiting the sites where New Zealand Victoria Cross (VC) recipients earned their medals and would like to fit in a visit to a unique headstone of a British double VC winner. Mr Froggatt served in Italy and Egypt in WWII in the Taranaki Regiment. He fought in the Battle of Cassino and the Battle for Florence where he was wounded in the leg. He returned to New Zealand on the hospital ship Maunganui. The delegation returned to New Zealand on October 10.
Passchendaele. Flanders. The Somme. The 90th Commemorations 1917-2007
The party left New Zealand by commercial airline on Monday 1 October, arriving in Brussels on 2 October. The visit itinerary was:
Wednesday - Sightseeing to Brugge
Thursday: ANZAC Ceremonies, the Memorial Museum and the Commemoration Dinner
The NZ Ceremony at 's Graventafel
Tyne Cot: The ANZAC Ceremony
From 's Graventafel the party moved on to the ANZAC Service for the 90th Anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele. This ceremony was attnded by New Zealand, Australian and Belgium representatives, as the Order of Service booklet explains.
Zonnebeke Chateau Memorial Museum
The chateau houses an extensive museum including uniforms, weapons and various models.
Buttes Cemetery for ceremony for the re-interment of Australian Soldiers
Shortly before the 90th ceremony, local easrthworks uncovered five Australian soldiers in an unmarked grave. Their remains were transferred to the big Australian cemetery at Buttes, and were re-interred as part of the 90th events. There are also many New Zealand graves and Buttes, and many more names commemorated on the walls.
Thiepval - The British Memorial to the Missing
The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing is a huge structure, listing the names of over 70,000 soldiers missing on the Passchendaele battlefields. The veterans paid a short visit here, and to the small cemetery adjacent to the memorial.
Dinner at the Old Cheese Factory
Friday: Visit to Messines, Longueval and Caterpillar Valley Cemeteries
Friday took us to the village of Messines and the New Zealand memorial. Near the church is a plaque to the memory of New Zealander Lance-Corporal Frickleton, who won the Victoria Cross here. Further along the road we passed the Red Rooster Inn, the site of an action that saw a Victoria Cross awarded to another New Zealander - this time to Les Andrew, who went on to become the first Commanding Officer of the 22nd Battalion when it was formed in December 1939 and in which one of the veterans (Doug Froggatt) later served.
Caterpillar Valley Cemetery
Caterpillar Valley is another large Cemetery holding many New Zealand graves. This is the Cemetery from where the "unknown soldier" was selected for re-interment in the National War Memorial in Wellington, his original grave now marked by a headstone recording the event. The veterans spent some time here.
Monday: The Last Post at Menin Gate, Ypres
Every night at dusk, the road through the Menin Gate at Ypres is closed to traffic, crowds gather and members of the local fire brigade (sometimes accompanied by other musicians) perform the Last Post. The short ceremony is often accompanied by wreath-laying or other marks of respect. The NZ veteran's group attended on their last night in Belgium.
And that was it. The next morning we were off to the airport for the long trip back to New Zealand. It really had been the trip of a lifetime. Doug Froggatt was 85 years old and this was to be his final overseas excursion. His first trip had been in 1943 - and that trip was also paid for by the Government. He visited battlefields and paid his respects at many graves. But on that first trip he was 21 years old and a signaller in the 22 Battalion 2NZEF. Twice more the Government paid his way, first to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Cassino in 1994 and then for the 50th anniversary of VJ Day in London in 1995. He also attended the 60th anniversary of Cassino in 2004 and the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Trieste and the German surrender there in 2005.
All these visits to the world's battlefields gave him a chance to reflect on it all. His thoughts in Passchendaele were the same as in Cassino in 1994:
Last updated: 28 January 2023