Helping to mark the day that our nation commemorates the 100th anniversary of the First Battle of Passchendaele, fought on October 12th, 1917, Auckland composer and musician Peter Hobbs has today released a poignant single titled 300 Yards of Ground.
The lyrics to 300 Yards of Ground are based on a letter by Private Leonard Hart, one of the comparatively few Kiwi soldiers who survived what has become known as New Zealand’s darkest day.
On October 12, 1917, an NZ division was among those charged with taking on the established and reinforced German line, crossing a horrendous no-man’s land of deep mud and rain-filled shell craters. Poor execution of the preceding NZ artillery barrage resulting in some shells falling on our own soldiers, and a failure to remove the barbed wire entanglements or damage the concrete bunker German machine gun posts. With that failure, Passchendaele was to become a horrifying scene of death, 846 young NZ soldiers among the 2700 killed in one single day of conflict.
Private Leonard Hart’s letter was smuggled back to his family, so avoiding military censorship. Hobbs saying that in reading it he was struck by the powerful imagery and honesty, and inspired to present his words in a musical work.
“Dozens got hung up in the wire and shot down before their surviving comrades’ eyes. It was now broad daylight and what was left of us realised that the day was lost. We accordingly lay down in shell holes or any cover we could get and waited.
“Any man who showed his head was immediately shot. They were marvellous shots those Huns. We had lost nearly eighty percent of our strength and gained about 300 yards of ground in the attempt. This 300 yards was useless to us for the Germans still held and dominated the ridge.” – Private Leonard Hart
Peter Hobbs was recently a finalist for the Best Original Music in a Film Award at the APRA Silver Scroll ceremony, for his compositional work in Jean, the tale of pioneering New Zealand aviator Jean Batten. He has also created a stirring
He has also created a stirring 360-degree video to accompany his 300 Yards of Ground song (complete with spatial audio).
Super-imposed onto a battlefield scene, band members dressed in early 20th Century attire play the song – while the viewer gradually finds him or herself edging uncomfortably closer to the battle itself.