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Passchendaele bell

Passchendaele bell

  • Height   1321 mm
  • Width   1600 mm
  • Weight   2448 kg
  • Note   C
Bell inscription

In memory of Cyril Ivan Brown
and his mother.
Presented by his father, William Brown.

The Passchendaele bell is the largest of the 33 next-of-kin bells in the Carillon and is named for the disastrous Passchendaele offensive which claimed the lives of almost 2000 New Zealanders. The bell is dedicated to the memory of Lieutenant Cyril Ivan Brown, a career soldier who, contrary to what the bell’s name might suggest, did not fight at Passchendaele.

Cyril Brown

Originally from Patea, Taranaki, Cyril was one of Sarah and William Brown’s six children. The family later moved to Wellington where Cyril became a gunner with the New Zealand Garrison Artillery, part of the country’s permanent military forces. He worked at Fort Dorset, part of a network of defensive coastal fortifications around the country, and advanced steadily up the ranks, eventually becoming a lieutenant. In October 1915 Cyril married Eunice Garland and the following year their son, Peter, was born. A few months later, Cyril enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

Cyril left New Zealand for Europe in April 1917. He joined the 2nd Brigade of the New Zealand Field Artillery which was then serving as a mobile artillery unit under British Command at Nieuport on the Belgian coast. On 20 October Cyril suffered a head wound when a shell exploded nearby. He was evacuated to a hospital in England where he eventually died of his wounds on 13 December. 

Naming the bell

In 1926 William Brown gave one of the Carillon bells in memory of his son and of his wife, Sarah, who had died in 1919 while he was travelling overseas. The subcommittee responsible for naming the bells chose to call the bell ‘Passchendaele’, likely believing Cyril to be one of the many casualties of that offensive.

That the subcommittee came to this conclusion is not all that surprising. Strict wartime censorship rules dictated what details soldiers could share with family and friends about their experiences, with letters home subject to the censor’s pen. Cyril’s family would have known that he was wounded in October 1917 and died two months later, but not necessarily where he was wounded or in what battle he sustained his injuries. Given the high number of casualties that occurred in October 1917 as a result of the Passchendaele offensive, assuming Cyril died as a result of the battle was a reasonable conclusion.

Further information

Auckland War Memorial Museum Online Cenotaph record – Cyril Brown

Commonwealth War Graves Commission record – Cyril Brown

'New Zealand's roll of honour', Evening Post, 20 December 1917, p. 1

'Women in print', Evening Post, 18 July 1919, p. 7