Alongside his countrymen at last. Lieutenant Colonel Nick Gillard opens the reburial service for the unknown soldier of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade at the Messines Ridge British Cemetery last week.
A solemn ceremony to rebury the remains of a New Zealand soldier was held at Messines Ridge British Cemetery in near Ieper/Ypres, Belgium on Friday 3 February.
The ceremony was attended by the Minister of Defence, Dr Jonathan Coleman, the Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, the Secretary of Defence, John McKinnon, the New Zealand Ambassador (Belgium), Vangelis Vitalis, and the Head of Defence Staff, New Zealand High Commission Brigadier Antony (Lofty) Hayward.
The Mayor of Mesen/Messines, Sandy Evrard, and representatives from Belgian military, Flemish Foreign Affairs, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Royal British Legion also attended the ceremony.
Brigadier Hayward said, “The service was a poignant time to reflect on service and sacrifice. After lying in a foreign field for 95 years he is now with his mates buried with the honour and dignity befitting a soldier that fought for our country.”
The remains of the soldier were discovered in July last year alongside a NZ Rifle Brigade hat badge, associated personal material and the remains of a uniform. After forensic analysis they were officially accepted as the remains of a New Zealand soldier.
Messines was the scene of very intense fighting by New Zealand Division (including the New Zealand Rifle Brigade) over the period 7-14 June 1917. During this battle around 700 New Zealand soldiers were killed in action.
Within the cemetery stands the Messines Ridge New Zealand Memorial which commemorates over 800 soldiers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force who died in or near Messines in 1917 and 1918 and who have no known grave. A large number of the New Zealand soldiers listed on the wall are New Zealand Rifle Brigade personnel.
For further information please contact Ally Clelland, Defence Communications Group, 021 569 130