NZDF

New Zealand WWI Soldier Reburied Beside Comrade

The remains of a New Zealand soldier discovered in Messines in April last year have been reburied with military honours in a ceremony overnight.
CDF at Messines reburial (web)
Chief of Defence Force LTGEN Rhys Jones at the reburial of an unknown New Zealand WWI soldier at Messines.

The soldier ‘Known only to God’ was buried next to the grave of another unidentified soldier discovered in 2011, whose remains were reburied in February last year.

The ceremony, at Messines Ridge British Cemetery in Mesen, was attended by Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General (LTGEN) Rhys Jones, and New Zealand’s Ambassador to Belgium, Paula Wilson.

The remains were officially accepted as those of a New Zealand soldier after they were discovered alongside two NZ Infantry shoulder badges.

It is likely the male soldier was between 20 and 25 years of age when he died, and was approximately 170cm tall.

It is estimated that over half of those who died during the Battle of Messines have no known resting place.

LTGEN Jones said it was an honour to attend the reburial.

“Battles such as the one in Messines were fought under tough conditions, and it was not always possible to recover those killed in action after the fighting had ended,” LTGEN Jones said.

“This soldier has already had his sacrifice and service to New Zealand recognised by being included in the names of those fallen.  Now he and is buried alongside comrades who also fought in the Battle of Messines.”

ENDS

For further information please contact Katherine O’Donnell, Media Advisor – Defence Communications Group, on 021 664 293.


Background

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. The majority of these soldiers are listed as New Zealand Rifle Brigade personnel.

 

This page was last reviewed on 26 February 2013, and is current.