The Battle of Passchendale was restaged on an Auckland farm recently for a photo shoot to capture the danger of nursing near the front line.

The new “nurses in action” photos by photographer and actor Dean O’Gorman will be added on October 12 – the 101st anniversary of the attack – to his current exhibition that is on display as part of the Great War Exhibition in Wellington.

Kiwi photographer Dean O’Gorman seeks to show New Zealand nurses in action in First World War to add to his exhibit ‘Passchendaele – The Elusive Familiarity of War’, which is on display at The Great War Exhibition. / Video by Michael Craig


Around 843 New Zealand soldiers were killed on October 12, 1917, during the failed attack on Bellevue Spur, dubbed the country’s “blackest day”.

The Mangere farm had a section of a paddock renovated to become a casualty clearing station where O’Gorman says nurses would have received and treated injured soldiers while still within the range of the artillery.

The Hobbit star and artist wanted to recreate the danger of the role nurses carried out during WWI at the Western Front for new content for his current exhibition, Passchendaele – The Elusive Familiarity of War.

New Zealand had no official nursing service in the army when WWI broke out in August 1914 but in the end around 550 nurses served overseas during the war.

Nurses at Passchendaele came closer to the front line than they ever had before, O’Gorman said.

He said while there was many photos of nurses during war, they didn’t give a sense of danger they were placed in.

“I don’t know whether at that time they didn’t want to show nurses getting their hands dirty and getting involved in the way they had to.

“It would be really nice to show how in some small way women participated in the First World War and maybe that might be new to some people,” he said.

The new photos can be viewed at the Great War Exhibition, which closes on December 2 2018, at Wellington’s Pukeahu National War Memorial Park.


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