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Spurred On: Where the fields hide bones and secrets

In an unassuming field in Flanders, Belgium, more than 300 men still lie where they fell a century ago.

This field just outside the small village of Passchendaele, was the scene of New Zealand's darkest day in World War One, a day when 843 Kiwi lives were lost in mere hours.

New Zealand actor Dean O'Gorman travelled to those Belgian battlefields for the interactive documentary Spurred On.

Dean O'Gorman started his journey in a graveyard.

OGorman was driven by his desire to trace his family history and connection to the First World War. His quest took him to places of significance for many New Zealanders, and uncovers the deep-rooted relationship Kiwis have with Belgium through our shared history.

READ MORE:
Spurred On: The unluckiest family in New Zealand?
* Spurred On: leaving bombs by the farm gate
* Spurred On: Kiwi soldiers were 'wild fellows' in Belgium
* Spurred On: the battlefield maps that beat Google Earth

O'Gorman says he found walking across the fields in Flanders to be one of the most powerful and most personal moments during his visit to Belgium.

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Local historian Freddy Declerck helped Dean trace the paths of the New Zealand and allied soldiers, across the fields to the stream that stopped the advance in its tracks.

"It was almost impossible for the soldiers to get across," explains Declerck. "The torrential rain had made the usually one metre wide stream much more vast, soaking into the field it ran through and turning the terrain into knee-deep mud."

Adding to the challenge, soldiers had the Germans firing down at them from a fortified position, making it a suicide mission for the Allies.

O'Gorman ends his journey in The Fields of Bones.

O'Gorman walked across the fields where hundreds of Kiwis were slaughtered in New Zealand's blackest day in military history.

"It's kind of strangely conflicting because on one level, it's quite exciting wondering what history is here, and then it's also incredibly sad thinking this was a battlefield."

Nearly 12,000 casualties from WW1 are buried in nearby Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery on the Western Front, and the cemetery that holds the most New Zealand casualties from the war.

Dean O'Gorman photographs the fields where 1176 New Zealanders who have no known grave lie, in Passchendaele.

Of the 520 graves of New Zealanders at Tyne Cot, 322 are unidentified. A memorial commemorates the 1176 New Zealanders who have no known grave, many of whom lie in the Passchendaele fields.

Find out more about Dean's story at SpurredOn.nz and in our series of stories on Stuff.

Stuff.co.nz

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