Central HB: Book gives insight into forgotten battle

By Nicki Harper

Add a comment
Author Dominique Cooreman is joined by Waipawa's Dylan Bellamy who reads the poem In Flanders Fields. Photo / Nicki Harper
Author Dominique Cooreman is joined by Waipawa's Dylan Bellamy who reads the poem In Flanders Fields. Photo / Nicki Harper

More than 300 people attended a special book launch in Waipawa last Friday, perfectly timed for Anzac Day this year.

The book, La Basse-Ville 1917: New Zealand Voices from Flanders Fields, is a unique insight into the conflict that took place at La Basse-Ville in Belgium between New Zealand troops and the Germans - a forgotten battle the story of which has never been told before.

Written by Belgian national and former judge Dominique Cooreman, it's been 12 years in the making with her research taking her between New Zealand and Belgium in order to shed light on what took place.

Attendees gathered at the Waipawa cenotaph before heading to the CHB Settlers Museum where a powhiri was held. Photo / Nicki Harper
Attendees gathered at the Waipawa cenotaph before heading to the CHB Settlers Museum where a powhiri was held. Photo / Nicki Harper

This book covers different aspects of the military operations as well as personal stories of individual soldiers that relay the horror of the event.

The New Zealand Division captured and helped take the hamlet, which had been held by the Germans since 1914. In the process 1001 New Zealand troops died. Seven men whose names are listed on the Waipawa cenotaph perished in the conflict.

Dominique researched everywhere the boys went: Cairo, Alexandria, Gallipoli, Hobart, France - and all the places they were from in New Zealand.

One of the connections she investigates, and the story that triggered the writing of the book, is that of Charles Rangiwawahia Sciascia of the Wellington regiment, killed in Belgium and not in France as people were told by the officials.

People from around the country came to the launch to celebrate and remember their family members who were involved. Dominique said writing the book had been a huge learning curve. "There are books that talk about Passchendaele, and La Basse-Ville is considered to be the start of Passchendaele - a minor skirmish, but for me it was a battle."

Military historian Christopher Pugsley, ONZM, attended the launch and said what Dominique had achieved was remarkable.

"For a person of Flemish background to bridge the cultures and produce this work took an enormous amount of research.

"With her background as a lawyer and a judge you can see the forensic skill with which she pulled the threads together.

"This is a story of family connections and friends that went to war not to die but to see the world and experience life. Dominique has brought this back to life."

Dominique said she wanted to unearth the names of all the men who died there, acknowledge what happened and make this part of military history accessible and readable.

"There will be mistakes and not all the information available could be included, and people can come to me if they have new information."

Any further details she intends to include in another limited hard-back edition of the book that is being put together to be released next year, the 100-year anniversary of the battle. To obtain a copy of the book or to pass information on to Dominque email labasseville1917@gmail.com.

- Hawkes Bay Today

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 05 Dec 2016 10:20:24 Processing Time: 622ms