5 November 2018
The sun was shining in northern France as 1300 French people and New Zealanders joined to mark the 100th anniversary of the liberation of Le Quesnoy on Sunday.
The official party included New Zealand Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy and Sir David Gascoigne, Secretary of State attached to the French Minister for the Armed Forces Geneviève Darrieussecq, New Zealand Ambassador to France Jane Coombs, Mayor of Le Quesnoy Marie-Sophie Lesne, Vice Chief of Defence Force Air Vice-Marshal Tony Davies and other French dignitaries.
After being led in by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), Ms Coombs welcomed the attendees in front of the New Zealand Memorial, which was draped with the New Zealand and French flags.
Dame Patsy spoke of the battle that led to the liberation of the small fortified French town and the tragic loss of life suffered by the New Zealand Division. Ms Darrieussecq reminded attendees that one in 10 New Zealanders served during the First World War and Ms Lesne described the enduring bond between New Zealand and Le Quesnoy, which was so evident in the number of people at the commemorations.
NZDF Chaplain David Julian with Lieutenant Colonel Mel Childs and her two children, Hunter and Lily, rededicated the New Zealand Memorial for future generations in the pursuit of peace.
The Regimental Colour Party of the 7th Wellington (City of Wellington’s Own) and Hawke’s Bay Battalion, which bears the battle honour of Sambre (Le Quesnoy), was mounted on the ramparts above the New Zealand Memorial. At the conclusion of the Service, the Colour was marched off to “Fernleaf Headstones”.
At 5pm, Air Vice-Marshal Davies welcomed nearly 300 attendees gathered before the New Zealand Memorial for the Last Post Ceremony.
As the Last Post played, the French and New Zealand flags were lowered for the final time.
The 100th anniversary of the liberation of Le Quesnoy is the final New Zealand overseas commemoration of the First World War Centenary.