NZDF

Chief of Defence Force Announces Somme Centenary Details in France

The New Zealand Battlefield Memorial near Longueval. It is close to the site of Switch Trench, the New Zealand Division’s initial objective on 15 September 1916.
The New Zealand Battlefield Memorial near Longueval. It is close to the site of Switch Trench, the New Zealand Division’s initial objective on 15 September 1916.

2 September 2016

Lieutenant General (LTGEN) Tim Keating, Chief of Defence Force, announced today further details of the Battle of the Somme centenary commemorations at Longueval, France, on 15 September 2016.

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is responsible for organising overseas military commemorations on behalf of the New Zealand Government.

LTGEN Keating said there were more New Zealand military personnel buried in France than anywhere else in the world.

“More than 15,000 New Zealanders served in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 – it’s impossible to overstate the impact this terrible battle had on those men and their families back in New Zealand,” he said.

“We will also remember the Battle of the Somme’s impact on the people of France and the enduring friendship between our nations.”

Three services will take place on 15 September – 100 years to the day that the New Zealand Division entered the Battle of the Somme. Early in the morning attendees will walk from the village  of Longueval to the New Zealand Battlefield Memorial to take part in a Dawn Service.

Later that morning the National Commemorative Service at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery will include readings by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and the Honourable Gerry Brownlee on behalf of the New Zealand Government. Youth from France, Germany and New Zealand will also deliver readings and two replica vintage aircraft will fly past the cemetery, depending on weather conditions.

To close the day’s commemorations, a special Sunset Ceremony will take place at the New Zealand Battlefield Memorial. LTGEN Keating will deliver a poroporoaki, or farewell reflection, and three NZDF buglers and drummers will perform an arrangement recreating the sounds of a day in battle of a New Zealand soldier. This arrangement has been composed especially for the Battle of the Somme commemorations.

At all three ceremonies the national anthems of the French Republic and New Zealand will be sung. The French equivalent of the Last Post (La Sonnerie Aux Morts) will be played, as well as the traditional Last Post. The Ode of Remembrance will be recited in French, Māori and English.

The Battle of the Somme commemorations would honour the sacrifice of more than 2000 New Zealand soldiers who died during the battle, LTGEN Keating said.

“More than half of the New Zealand soldiers killed during the Battle of the Somme have no known grave and are commemorated on New Zealand’s Memorial to the Missing in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery,” he said.

“The centenary commemorations remind us of our duty as New Zealanders to never forget the brutality of war and to always strive for peace in our world.”

For more information regarding the services, visit WW100.govt.nz/somme.

This page was last reviewed on 5 September 2016, and is current.