When Peggy Hyslop heard there was a giant peace sign in Whangarei to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele she had to go along to lend a hand.

And she knows well the horrors or war and the need to promote peace. Mrs Hyslop's late husband Fred served in World War II from 1939 to 1945 - including a stint as a prisoner of war - starting out in the North African Desert before fighting his way up through Italy.

The "pumps for peace" project, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of
Passchendaele, was held in Whangarei yesterday and organised by Creative Northland as a way of getting the community involved in activities marking the infamous battle, dubbed "New Zealand's darkest day".

On a single day of World War I - October 12, 1917 - 846 New Zealanders died in the Battle of Passchendaele in Flanders, Belgium. Many more died later from wounds suffered on the day, with the total number of wounded, dead and missing in 24 hours a staggering 2740.


Creative Northland used a giant pink, inflatable peace sign - 'Keeping the Peace' - on the old RSA bowling green in Rust Ave for the pump for peace project.

Artist Warwick Bell, who created the structure, said it included a collection of hand pumps where people could pump in air to keep the giant peace sign inflated.

"It's symbolic. It's only through us all working together to pump in the air that peace can be maintained. We've all got a part to play in keeping the peace," Mr Bell said.

Mrs Hyslop, a member of the Whangarei RSA, was determined to come along to lend her hand to the cause and pump for peace.

She said Fred, a wireless operator during the war, died seven years ago, in his 90s, but it was important that the memories of war, its horrors and the need for peace, were kept alive so that peace could continue.

"Fred served all six years of the war and was even captured for a while. But he escaped and went back to fight again," she said.

Mrs Hyslop was particularly pleased to see young people taking part in the commemorations as it was crucial they learned the lessons and worked to maintain peace.

"We should always remember them, We will remember them," she said.

Hinurewa te Hau, from Creative Northland, said the giant peace sign was a way of ensuring the country's history was remembered and a reminder that people needed to work together to make sure peace ensued.

To remember that history, and those who lost loved ones, Creative Northland also had digital projections on a number of buildings in Whangarei. A sunset slideshow showing scenes from Passchendaele has also been projected on to the front of Kaeo's Wesleydale Memorial Church this week.

The 106 images in Thursday evening's display depicted the lead-up to the battle, the horror of the battlefield and the aftermath, as well as the four Kaeo men who lost their lives. The slideshow was repeated on Friday night.