Director Peter Jackson in West Flanders for war remembrance


The man famous for making the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films was in West Flanders on Wednesday, in an unannounced visit to New Zealand and other First World War memorial sites

World-famous director takes Flanders by surprise

Peter Jackson, the director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit movies, was in West Flanders on Wednesday as part of a tour of the Westhoek dedicated to First World War remembrance. The unannounced visit surprised local authorities, who had no idea the world-famous filmmaker was coming.

Jackson is a New Zealander, and many New Zealand troops took part in fighting in the area of Mesen – better known at the time by its French name Messines – particularly the Battle of Messines from 7 to 14 June 1917. Some 103,000 troops and nurses served from New Zealand, from a population barely more than a million. Casualties and injuries ran to 58%: 16,697 dead and 41,317 injured.

Jackson, who is known for his keen interest in the First World War and is chair of New Zealand’s 14-18 Aviation Heritage Trust, visited the new statue of a Kiwi soldier on Mesen’s Grote Markt, as well as the Messines Ridge Cemetery, where many of the Kiwi dead lie buried.

Earlier in the day, Jackson visited Passendale and Zonnebeke. He also called in at the Tourist Information Centre in Mesen, which was recently extended with the help of a subsidy from the New Zealand government.

On Wednesday evening, he attended the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres, where the name of his great-uncle, who was one of the New Zealand casualties, is commemorated.


photo: Peter Jackson at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in Blenheim, New Zealand, home to much of his personal collection of historical aircraft

© Marty Melville/AFP/BELGA