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The public lecture, "Passchendaele’s Shadow", was delivered on the University of Otago campus by Prof Tom Brooking, of the history and art history department.
The lecture detailed "New Zealand’s tragic story".
"I’m not going to pull any punches," Prof Brooking warned at the start of the lecture.
The lecture recounted the Third Battle of Ypres between July 31 and November 17, 1917.
Prof Brooking described the Allied Forces being unable to build trenches in the boggy ground and facing machine-gun-wielding Germans "entrenched" in concrete pillboxes.
The 35,000 Allied soldiers who died, including All Black captain Dave Gallagher, did so for about 5km of land.
"It was a failure."
The "Germans’ sense of humanity" was discussed.
"If they hadn’t stopped firing, our losses would have been worse. They let the New Zealanders remove their wounded without firing on them."
He talked of Archibald Baxter arriving on the Western Front.
"He was opposed to war because he was opposed to war, not because he was Quaker or a socialist but because he thought war was wrong and no man should be forced to put on a uniform."