Hawke's Bay Man to March in French Military Parade on Bastille Day

Warrant Officer Class One Mario Ropitini
Warrant Officer Class One Mario Ropitini

11 July 2016

Hawke’s Bay man Warrant Officer Class One (WO1) Mario Ropitini will be marching in one of the world’s oldest and largest military parades in the world in Paris this month.

Regimental colours and banners representing New Zealand units that served in World War 1 will be paraded by 86 New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel on the Champs-Élysèes during the parade – the first time these flags have been paraded together outside of New Zealand.

WO1 Ropitini is the Regimental Sergeant Major of Queen Alexandra’s Mounted Rifles, Royal New Zealand Armoured Corps, and is the guardian of its guidon. Guidons are swallow-tailed flags that symbolise the spirit of a mounted unit or regiment and include honours and badges granted for battles they have participated in since they were raised.

Queen Alexandra’s Mounted Rifles, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2014, is one of the oldest standing units in the New Zealand Defence Force.

“It will be an absolute privilege to march beside the other colours, banners and ensigns representing the New Zealand Defence Force on this historic occasion,” says WO1 Ropitini.

Although the guidon does not carry battle honours from service in France in World War 1, the Queen Alexandra’s Mounted Rifles have a special connection to France. The Royal New Zealand Armoured Corps day is the anniversary of the Battle of Cambrai, the first major tank engagement of World War 1, on 20 November.

Like many other NZDF personnel in the contingent marching in the Bastille Day military parade, WO1 Ropitini also has a personal connection with France. His iwi on his father’s side is Ngāti Kahungungu, with links to the Smith whānau.

“My great-great-uncle, Private Joseph Smith, served in the 2nd Maori Pioneer Battalion in Egypt and on the Western Front. When we march on 14 July, a lot of us will be thinking of our ancestors and the sacrifice they made on French soil,” says WO1 Ropitini.

The French Bastille Day military parade is one of the oldest and largest military parades in the world. Bastille Day is a French national holiday and is commemorated across the country with military parades and celebratory activities.


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This page was last reviewed on 11 July 2016.