Home' Greymouth Star : August 20th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Wednesday, August 20, 2014
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uLetters to the editor
1526 - Forces under Italian Cardinal Pompeo
Colonna plunder Rome, forcing Pope Clement
VII to take refuge in Castle of St Angelo.
1630 - Lemonade is invented in Paris.
1914 - German forces occupy Brussels during
World War One.
1940 - Leon Trotsky, Russian
revolutionary, is fatally wounded by
a Spanish communist with an ice
axe in Mexico City, dying the next
1978 - Palestinian guerrillas attack
an El Al airline bus in London,
killing two people.
1980 - Italian Reinhold Messner
makes the first successful solo ascent of Mount
1987 - Treasure hunters salvaging objects
from doomed luxury liner Titanic scoop up
satchel containing a fortune in jewels.
1988 - Eight British soldiers are killed by an
Irish Republican Army landmine that destroys
a military bus near Omagh, County Tyrone, in
1989 - Soviet Union reveals the deadliest
weapon in its air force arsenal, a needle-nosed
bomber that Nato calls the Blackjack. British
conser vationist George Adamson, 83, is shot
and killed by bandits in Kenya. Fifty-one
people drown in the River Thames, London
when a dredger rams the pleasure cruiser
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Isaac Hayes, US actor-singer (1942-2008);
Rajiv Gandhi, former Indian prime minister
(1944-1991); Connie Chung, US broadcast
journalist (1946-); Robert Plant, British rock
singer of Led Zeppelin (1948-); Joan Allen,
US actress (1956-); ‘Dimebag’ Darrell
Abbott, American heavy metal
musician (1966-2004); Jonathan
Ke Quan, US actor (1971-); David
Walliams, British comedian (1971-
); Jamie Cullum, British musician
(1979-); Ben Barnes, UK actor
(1981-); Joshua Kennedy, Australia
soccer player (1982-); Demi Lovato, US actress
and singer (1992-).
“ If a thing is absolutely true, how can it not
also be a lie? An absolute must contain its
opposite.” — Charlotte Painter, American
writer and educator (1926-).
“Then looking up to heaven, He sighed and
said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”
And immediately his ears were opened, his
tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.”
— (Mark 7:34-35).
There is no need
to scamper in fright
monsters up a place
called Dragon Creek. Nor is one likely to
stumble over sun-bleached bones of old
gold-seekers along a waterflow called Epitaph
Creek. But, for the modern-day tourist the
magnificent bush scenery in both areas is likely
to hold enraptured attention for a long time.
For these creeks are sited in Westland, in the
deep south along the ruggedly beautiful coastal
land between Paringa and Haast. The Dragon
and the Epitaph are new names assigned to
the respective creeks by the New Zealand
Geographic Board and notified in the current
issue of the New Zealand Gazette.
The protector of the largest pocket of native
birdlife on the West Coast may well be the
weka. Move the weka and the number of native
birds may fast diminish. This is the opinion of
one amateur and experienced naturalist who
is concerned at the proposed shifting of wekas
from Reefton to the Arthur’s Pass National
Years of study by Mr A Dalziel have shown
that native birds, from the tomtit to the
kiwi, abound in the Paparoa Range in the
area between the Buller and Grey rivers. It is
here that there are the most wekas. It is here
where all the other native birds are growing in
numbers rather than diminishing.
Where the stoat has nearly cleaned out native
birds elsewhere on the Coast, in the Reefton
area where the doughty weka thrives there is
“It is my opinion that the weka is responsible
for the various bird species holding on,” says
uFood for thought
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A young soldier who died exactly
100 years ago has been officially
acknowledged as the first New Zealand
casualty of World War One.
At Waikumete Cemetery yesterday
morning the New Zealand Defence Force
formally declared that Robert Arthur
Hislop, a Territorial soldier from the
North Island Railway Battalion, was the
first member of the New Zealand Armed
Forces to die as a result of their war
In a moving graveside ceremony,
Hislop’s place in New Zealand military
history was confirmed by an army officer
while a defence force chaplain offered
thanks for his brief ser vice with the
battalion, an element of the Territorial
Force mobilised at the declaration of
war to guard key locations around New
In a traditional military gesture, a bugler
sounded the Last Post, which signals that
a soldier’s duty is over.
Twenty one year old Hislop was on
picket duty on the Parnell Railway
Bridge on the evening of 13 August 13,
1914 when he fell between two sets of
rail lines to the road below. He died in
Auckland Hospital from his injuries on
August 19, two weeks after New Zealand
joined Britain in the war against the
Hislop was given a military funeral
attended by the rank and file of the
Territorials and the NZ Expeditionary
Over the decades the circumstances
of his death faded from history and
the inscription on his gravestone at
Waikumete in Glen Eden — which
describes him as “the first NZ soldier to
give his life during the Great War” —
became so weathered as to be virtually
illegible. His great-niece Sue Atkins
learned about Hislop’s war service when
she started investigating her family’s
history. She was given invaluable help
by Sarndra Lees, collection manager
human history at Auckland Museum,
who researches people and their history
behind the gravestones.
Sue Atkins said her wider family were
honoured that Robert Hislop had been
acknowledged in a special way.
— New Zealand Herald
First Great War casualty recognised
PICTURES: New Zealand Herald
The grave of Robert Hislop in Waikumete Cemetery.
If Salvadore Dali were God, he would
surely have designed an animal that looked
It has been described as the most surreal
creature that lived in the strangest period
in the history of life on earth, more than
500 million years ago.
After more than four decades of studying
fossilised imprints, scientists believe they
have finally nailed hallucigenia’s position
in the tree of life, and in the process
discovered its only living descendants.
Hallucigenia, named because of its
dream-like, trip-inducing appearance,
is one of the many marine animals that
rather abruptly appear in the fossil record
during a period in pre-history known as
the Cambrian explosion, a biological bang
that detonated the evolution of complex
life-forms about 542 million years ago.
Until the Cambrian explosion, life had
been bumbling along for about three
billion years, with evolution producing
nothing much more animate than a bath
After the explosion, creatures with
complex body plans evolved that walked,
crawled, swam and burrowed. Hallucigenia
was one of them.
Scientists were so thrown by hallucigenia
when its small fossils were first analysed
40 years ago that they thought its front
end was its back end, and its top was its
They even thought it was an evolutionary
one-off that had left no descendants alive
However, scientists now believe
hallucigenia is the ancestor of a small
group of worm-like creatures with short,
stubby legs that can be found today, living
unobtrusively in the undergrowth of
Martin Smith and Javier Ortega-
Hernandez of Cambridge University
have detected key physical similarities
between hallucigenia and the so-called
velvet worms, known more formally
as the onychophorans — the first
time zoologists have been able to rule
conclusively on the creature’s true role in
Their study, to be published in the
journal Nature, is based on a detailed
analysis of high-magnification images of
the fossils of Hallucigenia.
— New Zealand Herald
Hallucigenia is a genus of Cambrian animals.
Scientists get grip on Hallucigenia
he bloodiest day for the French
Army in World War One —
indeed in its entire history
— draws no national tributes,
no eulogies by dignitaries, few
wreaths laid in respect.
The storied campaigns at the Marne
and Verdun are seared into French
consciousness But the catastrophic Battle of
the Frontiers a century ago that cut down
27,000 French soldiers on August 22, 1914,
remains largely unknown.
Despite bayonet charges and a refusal to
retreat, the men buried in the moss-covered
graves in the village of Rossignol and others
like it in southern Belgium perished in the
rout by the German army have faded from
memory in ensuing years.
“Command, topography, tactics,
everything” went wrong in the 15-odd
battles that summer day on a front
stretching from Alsace to western Belgium,
said Jean-Michel Steg, author of The
Deadliest Day in the History of France.
Many historians consider Rossignol in the
Ardennes the battle’s epicentre.
“It was a crash course for the French army
into 20th century battle tactics,” Steg said.
“They had gone in dreaming of Austerlitz
and it was a different world. It was one
of those days they crashed into reality,”
he said, referring to a Napoleonic victory
marked by dramatic cavalry charges.
Two elite colonial infantry regiments sent
north by General Joseph Joffre to drive a
wedge in the German army as it pushed
south were wiped out at Rossignol, nestled
in south-east Belgium not far from the
French and Luxembourg borders.
The majority of officers were gunned
down by German machine guns as they
led their troops in desperate, unwinnable
“They ’re experienced, they ’re tested, and
yet they ’re going to be cut to pieces here
in the forest. That ’s why Rossignol is the
most striking battle,” said Remy Pierlot of
Belgian non-profit MERCi, which seeks to
maintain the historical memory with tours
of battlefields and sites of civilian massacres.
Reasons given for the French defeat are
many — the surprise presence of the 4th
and 5th German armies a day before Joffre
had expected them, a difficult, unfamiliar
wooded terrain, dense morning fog and the
bright red trousers worn by French soldiers.
More critical, however, was the
intransigent credo of the French military
that insisted on all-out offensive attacks.
The lack of defensive training and an
inflexible command hierarchy meant the
French soldiers — taken by surprise while
marching through a dense forest ill-suited
to offensive charges — were slaughtered
by the thousands by the German artillery
protected by defensive positions, and
ordered not to retreat.
“There was this offensive spirit — we
advance. Joffre said ‘We have to make it
through, no matter the price.’ Well, the
price was a generation of Frenchmen,” said
Jean Dauphin, whose museum in nearby
Latour is dedicated to the area’s war history.
Within the first three hours of fighting,
the Rossignol battlefield was already
littered with the bodies of two French
regiments and yet the charges kept coming,
“By the fourth or fifth attempt you
probably start running over the corpses of
your friends,” he said. “It ’s unbelievable how
those guys did it. It was hell. Those guys
were very brave.”
The French losses that one day alone are
the equivalent of half of all United States
soldiers killed in 16 years of fighting in
Vietnam. More comparable, yet still less
severe, are the 20,000 British killed on July
1, 1916, during the Battle of the Somme.
The paradox is the British remember, the
French do not, said Steg.
Strewn throughout southern Belgium are
not only French and German cemeteries
but memorials to massacred civilians.
Following the battle of Rossignol, 108
villagers were taken from their homes and
transported in cattle cars to nearby Arlon,
where they were executed. The story repeats
from town to town.
“Joseph Barras, that ’s my great-
grandfather,” said Marie Therese Pipeaux,
pointing to a memorial engraved with
50 names of townspeople killed by the
Germans at Anloy, one of the 30-odd
‘martyr villages’ in the region.
The name of Eveline Godfain, 15 months,
is also engraved in the stone: “She was in
the arms of her father,” Pipeaux said.
Townspeople died by the hundreds in this
area of Belgium as the advancing Germany
army, fearful of saboteurs, attacked civilians,
then burned and pillaged their towns. Over
30 such episodes occurred during August
22-23 alone, Steg said.
Pipeaux’s great uncle, then 17, saw it
all: “ The houses set on fire, the people
who were shot when they ran out of
their homes, all of that my great uncle
witnessed,” she said.
“ Whenever August 22 came around you
could ask him about it, he’d talk. But the
very next day he’d say ‘No more.’”
This year, for the first time, a German
official will attend a commemoration
in Anloy marking 100 years since the
Dauphin, 90, lost two uncles and two
cousins in the massacre at Latour, in which
all male townspeople were shot. As a young
man, he remembers being told by the town’s
40-some widows that it was up to him to
keep the memory of that history alive.
He did, and while dedicating himself to
his museum, helped French families find
their lost relatives in the cemeteries of
south-east Belgium. For his work, France
awarded him the prestigious L egion
d’Honneur in 2011.
Back at the Plateau cemetery of
Rossignol, one of two in the small village,
the graves of French soldiers — Henri De
ViBraye, Pierre Bellamy, Charles Patre and
hundreds more — are nestled under tall
trees, the mossy ground wet from a recent
Each grave carries the date of August 22,
“ You walk around the cemetery,
everybody’s dead the same day,” said author
Steg, who plans to lay a wreath to the fallen
French infantrymen on August 22 this year.
“Line after line after line of people dead
the same day.” — Reuters
Crosses mark the graves of soldiers buried one of the World War One military cemeteries in the village of Rossignol, southern Belgium
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