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The Somme bell

The Somme bell

  • Height   1549 mm
  • Width   1905 mm
  • Weight   4143.5 kg
  • Note   A
Bell inscription

The Somme
To the Glorious Memory of
The New Zealand Division, 1916-18.
‘Its Record does honour to the land from
which it came and to the Empire for which it fought.’
 - D. Haig, Field-Marshal.
Given by Citizens.

This bell is the second largest of the original 49 bells in the Carillon. Because more people and groups wished to fund bells than there were bells available, this one was funded by a range of organisations and individuals, hence the wording on the bell that it was ‘given by citizens’. 

Some of the money used for this bell had previously been raised to fund specific bells. The Society of Musicians, for example, had held a number of fundraising concerts to raise money for a special musician’s bell.

This bell was given to the memory of the New Zealand Division, which was formed in March 1916 following the evacuation from Gallipoli, and then served on the Western Front. One of its most significant actions was during the Battle of the Somme, after which this bell is named. The Division’s last major action was the capture of the town of Le Quesnoy, just a week before the end of the war. 

Three of the largest bells in the original Carillon were used to represent the three main theatres in which the New Zealand Expeditionary Force served – this one for the Western Front, plus the 'Anzac' bell for Gallipoli, and the 'Palestine' bell for the Middle East. 

The quotation on the bell is by Field Marshal Douglas Haig, the commander of the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front from late 1915 until the end of the war, including during the Battle of the Somme. It is taken from a foreword Haig wrote in 1919 for a book about the history of the New Zealand Division:

no Division in France built up for itself a finer reputation, whether for the gallantry of its conduct in battle or for the excellence of its behaviour out of the [front] line. Its Record does honour to the land from which it came and to the Empire for which it fought.

On its arrival in New Zealand the 'Somme', and the then largest bell, 'Reo Wairua', were put on display in a wharf shed on the Wellington waterfront for the public to view.

During later years the bell was sounded during carillon recitals held to mark the anniversaries of particular events associated with the New Zealand Division.  

Further information:

 H. Stewart, New Zealand Division, 1916–1919: a popular history based on official records, Whitcombe & Tombs, Wellington, 1921