[John Keith Moloney recalls Passchendaele]
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John Keith Moloney recalls serving at Passchendaele and the work of the Māori Pioneer Battalion.
"I have very poignant memories of Passchendaele. It was the world's worst battlefield. On 4th October, our First and Fourth Brigades attacked with success. It then began to rain, and on the 9th the British attacked. They were stopped on their assembly lines. I well remember marching through the Menin Gate with my unit, 12th Nelson's Fourth Brigade. [12th (Nelson) Regiment, Canterbury Battalion, Fourth New Zealand Rifle Brigade]. It was still raining.
We moved up past the old British front line, in front of Wieltje. We were in reserve. We had our headquarters at a pillbox called Gallipoli. The night was thick with rain and foreboding. The British wounded still lay out from the attack on the 9th. That day, the 11th, the famous Otago scout, Dick Travis, had scouted the enemy positions and reported that the German front line was thick with pill-boxes, swathed with barbed wire and still uncut.
General Braithwaite at Second Brigade Headquarters tried in vain to make the higher-ups see the light. The men of the Second and Third Brigades went against these impossible objectives and the machine guns from Kronprinz Farm and Bellevue Spur cut them to pieces. Their bodies were swathed like butterflies against the wire.
At dawn on the 13th, my C.O. Dan Dron [Major Douglas Alexander Dron?] woke me up and said "You are to take a party of 400 men from the brigade with stretchers to evacuate the wounded." He had tears in his eyes. "They are slipping into the shell holes and drowning in the mud."
When I arrived with my party at Gravenstafel, the scene was grim. The stretcher bearers were bogged down by their burdens and sank to their armpits in the gluey mud. We had sent for ropes, and a party of Māori Pioneers come up and began extricating the bearers by passing ropes under their shoulders and pulling them out like gaffed fish. These wounded, bogged down, had been carried from Waterloo Farm, a distance of some 1100 yards, and the bearers were in a state of extreme exhaustion. The Māoris at once stepped into the breach and carried the stretchers away, eight men to a team, to Spree Farm, a long, heart-breaking carry of some four to five hours.
It was a scene of utter desolation, of great suffering but of supreme courage."
[Break in interview]
"Ah, the weather was magnificent. And then of course, we went to Passchendaele and that was of course, the grave of everyone's hopes. It was a terrible disaster. The military science of the British Army was at its lowest ebb. In fact, if anyone had had any sense and had seen over the battlefield they would never have let the attack go on, on the 12th. It was a most terrible attack.
Anyway, when my unit came out of Passchendaele, I had had my uniform on for twelve days, unshaven, caked with mud and very grimy. And when we came out, the roll call, we had taken in gas very slowly and hardly anyone could give their names. That was the finish for me. I had trench fever, gas and all, and I was very glad to go out."
Transcript by Sound Archives/Ngā Taonga Kōrero
Reference number 253856
Media type AUDIO
Collection Sound Collection
Interviews (Sound recordings)
Moloney, John Keith, Speaker/Kaikōrero
New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (estab. 1962, closed 1975), Broadcaster