Eden Park opens its doors to the public today to commemorate the Passchendaele campaign, the bloody World War I Western Front conflict which claimed the lives of hundreds of New Zealand soldiers.

The connection with the park is that the first All Blacks captain, Dave Gallaher, was among those killed.

Gallaher, a sergeant, died 100 years ago today in the Battle of Broodseinde after shrapnel pierced his helmet. The battle was considered the most successful Allied attack of the Passchendaele campaign but cost 492 Kiwi lives.

Fields of Remembrance Trust vice-chairman and Auckland RSA president Graham Gibson said of the battle of Broodseinde, success came at a terrible price.


He said he was extremely grateful to the Eden Park Trust for holding the Mates on the Field tribute. It includes a giant poppy and 492 personalised white crosses erected on the field. A further 12 crosses honour the other All Blacks who died in WWI.

Free stadium tours will be held every hour, on the hour, from 9am. Wreaths will be laid and the Last Post played at a dusk ceremony at 6.30pm.

The ceremony will also feature a Warbirds fly past, the New Zealand Navy Band, and rugby legend Buck Shelford leading a haka.

Meanwhile, Kensington Palace says Prince William will attend the New Zealand commemoration of the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium on October 12. At least 843 New Zealand troops died on October 12, 1917, the most on any single day of combat.

The commemorations will be at Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest Commonwealth War grave site. It contains the graves of 520 NZ soldiers. Others killed in the Passchendaele conflicts are listed on its Memorial to the Missing.

In Wellington on October 12, commemorations start at 3pm at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park.