Youngster Proud to Join Battle of Messines Commemoration in Belgium

Warrant Officer Cadet Austen Rangi pays his respects at his great-great-uncle’s grave in Belgium.
Warrant Officer Cadet Austen Rangi pays his respects at his great-great-uncle’s grave in Belgium.

6 June 2017

A Royal New Zealand Navy Cadet is enjoying the highlight of his career so far, travelling to Europe with the New Zealand Defence Force to help commemorate a century-old battle fought in the First World War.

The Battle of Messines centenary commemorations mark the service and sacrifice of the soldiers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force who served in the battle.

Warrant Officer Cadet Austen Rangi, 17, was also able to visit the grave at Godewaersvelde British Cemetery of his great-great-uncle Alfred Coxhill of 1st Battalion, Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment), who died on October 28, 1917, aged 29.

It was on the Western Front that New Zealand made its most significant contribution to the First World War, and also where New Zealand suffered the greatest loss of life.

Warrant Officer Cadet Rangi is the head boy of Tawa College and lives in Porirua. He joined Sea Cadets in 2012 because he wanted to challenge himself.

“The Cadet Forces offer great opportunities to challenge yourself,” he said.

His official role has been to assist the guard party during the commemorations and be part of wreath-laying ceremonies, so he has made sure his drill has been up to standard for the public events.

He has also been able to immerse himself in the cultural difference and history of Belgium, something he was looking forward to.

Three cadets travelled with the New Zealand Defence Force contingent to represent the youth of New Zealand and the Navy, Air Force and Army Cadet units.

“We had to write an essay describing why out of all the cadets in New Zealand we deserved to go,” Warrant Officer Cadet Rangi said.

“I feel very honoured to have been able to be part of these commemorations. It would have to be the highlight of my time in the Cadet Forces.”

The two main commemorations in Belgium are the New Zealand National Commemorative Service to Mark the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Messines at Messines Ridge British Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and a sunset ceremony at the New Zealand Battlefield Memorial in the New Zealand Memorial Park, both on June 7.

When not at cadets Warrant Officer Cadet Rangi coaches and plays underwater hockey and is a black belt in Ryukyu Kempo Karate. He is also a keen musician, playing the guitar and singing.

He is planning a future as a Royal New Zealand Navy engineering officer.

“I want to be a mechanical engineer and serve my country too.”

This page was last reviewed on 6 June 2017.