This week I stood on the spot where some All Blacks died nearly a century ago.

This week I stood on the spot where some All Blacks died nearly a century ago.

The New Zealand soldiers of World War I dressed like this man did for us at Messines in 2014. And then posed with the 1980 All Black captain David Loveridge.

11 November 2014

As tour leaders of  the Wiliiment Sport Travel groups in UK and France this winter (mostly following the 2014 All Blacks) Dave Loveridge and myself, with our wives, had been acutely aware that the inclusion of a 2-day breakaway trip from London to northern France and Belgium would be particularly poignant this year. 80 supporters were down to visit familiar battle sites for New Zealand war historians; places like; Messines, Passchendale and Ypres.

And so we did, standing bare-headed in the chill morning sun in Belgium on the 11th of the 11th of November, as the New Zealand national anthem rang out in front of the Messines Memorial to the fallen New Soldiers who lie in the impeccably kept Commonwealth war graves. Wreathes were laid by both Belgian and New Zealand officials, Binyon's ode was read and silence rang out across the frosty meadows of the nearby farmlands.

Later I was able to reflect that of the 13 All Blacks who died in World War I four were killed in a fortnight more or less right where we were standing this week. The Memorial to the fallen New Zealanders is at the top of the ridge where the great battles took place for the German-held village in June 1917.

As best I can here is a list of the All Blacks and where they fell in World War I. But I publish it with full respect to the memories of many other fine Kiwi sports people of all codes who died in those horror times. And also of the thousands of others who lie in graves, many unmarked, in what is now a serene and very peaceful part of the world.

There was real poignacy for Dave Loveridge who was with us this week. Not only is Dave an ex-All Black test captain, but he is very aware that the first ever 'All Black' team leader Dave Gallaher (of the famous 1905-06 team) is buried only kilometres away from Messines in Poperinge.

And the Reg Taylor story adds more too. He was one of the others who died where we were standing. in Messines in 1917 in fact. He, like Dave Loveridge, was an All Black farmer who originally hailed from Inglewood Taranaki.

RIP the dead ALL BLACKS from World War One; (in alphabetical order)

James Baird - died Messines, Belgium June 7 1917, France

Robert 'Bobby' Black - died France (Battle of The Somme) 21 September 1917

Henry 'Norky' Dewar - died Gallipoli August 9 1915

Ernest Dodd - died France 11 September 1918

Albert 'Doolan' Downing - died Gallipoli, 8 August 1915

Dave Gallaher - died Passchendale, Belgium 4 October 1917 (Buried Poperinge, not far from Messines)

Eric Harper - died Palestine 30 April 1918

James 'Jim' McNeece - died Belgium, June 21 1917 in Battle of Messines Ridge.

Alex 'Jimmy' Ridland - died France, 5 November 1918 (six days before the end of WWI)

George Sellars - died Messines, Belgium, 7 June 1917 (carrying a wounded colleague away from battle)

Reginald Taylor - died Messines, Belgium 20 June 1917

Hubert 'Jum' Turtill - died in France 9 April 1918 - (Was one of the first All Blacks to go to rugby league ('northern Union'). He joined the war with the British Armed Forces)

Frank Wilson - died France 19 September 1916 (Battle of the Somme)

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  • 28 December 2014 (6 years ago)

    Stewy

    These two could be brothers !
    Armistace day and this tour of Ypres -Passchendale- Tyne Cot Cemetery was very moving-we will not forget-cheers Bruce Stewart Brightwater Nelson