New Zealand's Darkest Day

In Military History, Featured

12 October 1917 was the darkest day in New Zealand’s history. In a few hours of fighting there were more New Zealanders killed or wounded than at any other point in the nation’s history. The extract below is taken from Men-at-Arms 473: The New Zealand Expeditionary Force in World War I.


Artwork by Mike Chappell

New Zealand was to suffer its darkest day on 12 October, when the division was committed to a poorly prepared and unsuccessful attack on Bellevue Spur over almost impassable ground. The preparatory artillery barrage was weak, and failed to cut the enemy wire or destroy the pillboxes; the New Zealanders were massacred as they advanced against the well-protected German MG positions, suffering a devastating 2,700 casualties, including 45 officers and 1,200 men killed.

For more reading on World War One take a look at Essential Histories 22: The First World War (3) and GNM: The First World War.

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KenA posted on 12 Oct 2015 12:58:10
Ah yes. The role of British General Herbert Plumer in the affair at Bellevue Spur on 12 October 1917 (part of the First Battle of Passchendaele) could do with a little scrutiny. Who was it who erroneously advised Field Marshal Douglas Haig that the Second ANZAC Corps had reached its first objective after the fighting of 9 October that would make a good jumping-off position for the attack on the 12th? The line had in fact hardly changed in that sector. Further, many British guns had sunk in the mud, bogged down while being moved forward (the autumn of 1917 had been the wettest in Belgium for 70 years). In addition, the British guns had run short of ammunition. And to top it off, the barbed wire (about 27 metres deep) in front of the pillboxes at the hamlet of Bellevue remained uncut. A good jumping-off position! No wonder there was a slaughter.

The Hon. Herbert Plumer did OK. He later served as C-in-C of the British Army of the Rhine and then as Governor of Malta before becoming High Commissioner of the British Mandate for Palestine after which he retired, presumably in England’s green and pleasant land.

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