Prince William at Passchendaele commemorations

The Duke of Cambridge has represented the Queen in a Belgium ceremony to commemorate soldiers from New Zealand who died at the Battle of Passchendaele.

Speaking at the centenary service, Prince William told the descendants of those who were killed that although we will never truly understand what they endured, "we can remember".

The service was designed to commemorate the heroism and valour of the Kiwi soldiers killed at Passchendaele.

Prince William Passchendaele

The Prince said:

"All too often newsreels describe the actions of 'ordinary men and women'. There was nothing ordinary about their service or their sacrifice."

The royal was joined by the Princess Astrid of Belgium as he delivered his speech at Tyne Cot cemetery, surrounded by thousands of headstones of Allied servicemen who died in the Great War.

Prince William Passchendaele
Military personnel from New Zealand performing a traditional Maori greeting.

He added: "As we have heard, October 12th 1917 was the 'darkest day' in the military history of a proud and committed people.

"For New Zealanders, the loss of more than 840 men in just a few hours is seared into the national consciousness."

"All told, the Battle of Passchendaele would claim close to 2,000 lives - a devastating toll for a country with a population of just over a million.

"Half a world away, news of the losses was felt like a shockwave. Every death here left a shattered family there."

"Entire communities were robbed of their young people. No part of New Zealand was untouched by loss."

Prince William

David Carter, speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives, earlier told how Kiwi soldiers described devastating scenes amidst a "porridge of mud" and "a place that stamps itself on one's mind and memory - like a red iron".

The Prince went on to say:

"The fight in these fields was of a magnitude and ferocity that is difficult for us, today, to fully comprehend. But while we may never truly understand, we can remember."

 

Prince William

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