25 April 2015
As dawn broke in New Zealand on the centenary of Anzac Day a contingent of twenty New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel took part in a joint Anzac Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate memorial in Ieper, Belgium.
The ceremony on the eve of Anzac Day is the 29,928th time the Last Post has been played at the Menin Gate since the First World War. At 8pm every night the traffic through the Menin Gate is halted and buglers from the Last Post Association play the Last Post. This ceremony has been performed since 1928, with the exception of the period from 1940 to 1944 when the town was under German occupation during the World War Two.
In true Anzac spirit an NZDF tri-Service Catafalque Guard conducted their formal duties with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) Federal Guard and a waiata was performed by the NZDF Maori Cultural Group. Each representing their respective Defence Forces was the New Zealand Chief of Navy Rear Admiral Jack Steer, who recited the Ode of Remembrance, and Rear Admiral Allan du Toit from the ADF. New Zealand Minister of Defence the Hon. Gerry Brownlee also laid a wreath on behalf of New Zealand alongside Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs the Hon. Julie Bishop.
The Anzac ceremony at Menin Gate is an example of how well respected and remembered New Zealand and Australian servicemen are on the Western Front with hundreds of Belgium locals attending the ceremony.
It is this continued support and recognition from local communities for our past and present servicemen that the NZDF contingent have acknowledged over the past week during their commemorations at every New Zealand battlefield and memorial to the missing on the Western Front.
The names of over 2,000 New Zealand troops who died in Ypres on the Western Front and who have no known grave are recorded on memorials in cemeteries near the sites of the battles where they fell. They are among the 55,000 British Empire Forces who have no known grave.
“The courage, comradeship and commitment shown by New Zealand servicemen on the Western Front remain the foundation of the Defence Force today. It's also fitting that we share this moment with our Australian counterparts at such an important time in history,” says Chief of Navy Rear Admiral Jack Steer.
Belgium and France are significant in First World War commemorations due to the number of Anzac lives lost on the Western Front. Over 12,000 New Zealand soldiers are buried and memorialised in Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries in Belgium and France, which the contingent have visited over the past week.
Photos of the Menin Gate ceremony are available in Dropbox
For more information please contact Defence Public Affairs on 021 487 980