January 7 1925
The “Invincibles” visit World War I battlefields.
After beating England on January 3 the 1924/5 All Blacks travelled to France for two matches. On Wednesday January 7 they visited World War I battlefields in France and Belgium, laying wreaths on the grave of 1905/6 All Black captain Dave Gallaher.
Several of the team had served in the Great War, with Les Cupples and Jim Parker winning Military Medals. Alf West had been gassed, the Brownlies, though not casualties themselves, had lost a brother, Tony, in the conflict, and most if not all of the team would have been affected in some way. Hence the battlefield visit would have been very relevant.
On Wednesday we left the Gare du Nord at 8 a.m. for a tour of the Battlefields. The train, which arrived at Lille at 11 a.m., passed through Albert—where, on a ridge, we could see a large monument to the memory of British soldiers— Thiepval, Achiet, Hamel, Miramount, Boisleuh, Arras—which was demolished during the war, but is now practically rebuilt— Rouex, Vitry, Brebières, Douai, Leforet, Ostricourt, Libercourt. Phalampen, and Pouchin. We left Lille in char-a-bancs, and at 12.30 were held up at Armentières, on the French and Belgian Frontier, to pass the Customs Officials. Both Lille and Armentières were occupied by the Germans, who did not harm
the former town, but practically demolished the latter after evacuating it; the reconstruction of which was well in hand.
We motored along Menin Road (known during the War as “The Strand), Ploeg Street, around “Hyde Park Corner,” past Hill 63 to Messines Ridge, where, with all reverence we inspected the beautiful New Zealand Monument, which stands on the German front line, in memory of New Zealanders who lost their lives in their gallant fight for, and capture of Messines. We then proceeded to Ypres via Kemmel, Dicky Bush, La Clytte (where New Zealanders were encamped) Reninghelst (N.Z.A.S.C. Headquarters), and Poperinghe. At Poperinghe we broke our journey to enable Cliff Porter and Fred Lucas to place wreaths on Sergeant David Gallaher’s grave, whose body lies in the Nine Elms’ Cemetery. Porter’s wreath was from “Members of the 1924-25 All Blacks” and Lucas’ from his club in Auckland, to which Gallaher belonged. We saw many cemeteries in and near Poperinghe, including the largest in France or Belgium, which contains 11,000 graves of soldiers. The cemeteries were kept in perfect order, the lawns between the rows of tombstones being nicely mown and trimmed. At Ypres, where we had lunch, we saw the remains of the Cloth Hall and hundreds of buildings that had been blown to pieces. Unfortunately darkness prevented us from visiting Paschendale. We returned to Lille and caught the train for Paris, having spent the most memorable day of the tour.”
From “With the All Blacks in Great Britain, France, Canada and Australia 1924-25” by Read Masters. Pub. 1928 by Christchurch Press Co. Ltd p.117-118.