Memorial to 12 October 1917
Memorial to 12 October 1917



12 October 1917 has been called New Zealand's blackest day. On this date, at the Battle of Passchendaele, 845 New Zealanders were killed - the most on any one day.

The memorial, designed for a second year project, is sited on the sunny ridge east of the driveway between Tasman Street and the National War Memorial in Wellington. The main entrance to the memorial is that closest to the Massey University building and is marked with the plaque above, a columnar yew and rosemary bushes planted in a large raised bed. Black stone paving is laid along the thresholds. A series of ramps and landings leads to a 50 metre long ramp. All ramps are gently sloping to increase the feeling of procession. On the long ramp or pathway the 845 lives lost on the 12th of October are represented by 845 black rectangular stone pavers, set amongst white stone pavers, so that people can walk with the fallen soldiers. The black pavers increase in number as the path descends.

The planting alongside the pathway helps to enclose it and separate it from its surroundings. Purple and white flowers are set amongst a variety of greens. The climax of the flowering is during the month of October, but there will continue to be interest throughout the year. Native and often endemic plants are used over most of the site, with exotic plants used for their symbolism, such as, yew and rosemary, or for their flower colour and form, for example Polygonatum x hybridum and Aquilegia vulgaris.

The walkway ends at the black walls of an enclosed space that is open to the sky. Within the space the back, northern most wall is made of brushed stainless steel and the other walls and floor are white stone. The grey steel contrasts to the black outer and white inner walls and is punctured with 845 tear shapes. The fall of the floor means that water will run towards the 'tear wall' and flow down the gap between the two. The other walls are faced with the same white stone used on the walls and ramps at the memorial's main entrance. The enclosed space is located in line with the Carillon.

Three seating areas provide three different spaces for rest and contemplation. They are on the two landings where the walkway changes direction and within the 'tear wall' space. The steps that lead from the walled space are concrete, as are those that provide a direct route up the slope from Tasman Street, as they are not part of the processional, commemorative experience.