Kiwis in Le Quesnoy to remember centenary of New Zealand soldiers' liberation of the French town in World War I

Posted by On 4:39 AM

Kiwis in Le Quesnoy to remember centenary of New Zealand soldiers' liberation of the French town in World War I

The French World War I battle site of Le Quesnoy goes on the Kiwi OE pilgrimage map from tonight with a series of events to remember New Zealand soldiers' role as liberators 100 years ago.

The New Zealand Government will conduct a commemorative service at 11am tomorrow (11 tonight New Zealand time) and a Last Post ceremony at the New Zealand Battlefield Memorial at 5pm tomorrow (5am NZT).

Between those, a plaque offered to the town by New Zealand will be unveiled beside the town hall at 12.30pm (12.30am NZT).

And at 3.30pm (3.30am NZT), a dedication ceremony will be held for the New Zealand War Memorial Museum that is being created in the town.

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As part of the dedication, the Helen Pollock installation Victory Medal will be unveiled at the forecourt of the museum buildi ng. The installation toured New Zealand and battlefield towns in Europe before being placed at Le Quesnoy.

The Victory Medal installation has been placed at the forecourt of the New Zealand War Memorial Museum building in Le Quesnoy, France.

Hundreds of New Zealanders are in Le Quesnoy for the commemorative events.

With the centenary of the war's end just a week away, on November 11, Armistice Day, the focus has turned to the Battle of Le Quesnoy in northern France, the New Zealand Division's last major action in the four-year war.

More than 140 New Zealanders died in the battle that included freeing the walled town from German occupation on November 4, 1918. No civilians died. For the 100 years since, the citizens of Le Quesnoy have had a strong affinity for New Zealand, with street names and parks recalling the connection.

The chairman of the museum project, former deputy prime minister Sir Don McKinnon, said its hope is that the town and the museum will be a magnet for Kiwis in Europe.

"There has been a move in the last 10 years or so somewhat slightly away from Gallipoli.

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"Turkey has got a few problems. A lot have discovered, or rediscovered Gallipoli and are now looking at the Western Front.

"There is pretty deep interest in the Western Front as people are talking about it. We believe we can make Le Quesnoy a real mecca for New Zealanders."

Millions of tourists visit the battlefields of northern France each year.

McKinnon said the New Zealanders' liberation of the town was an extraordinary story of ingenuity, bravery, courage and humanity.

In a project expected to take five to 10 years, the museum is to be created in a former mayoral residence and a planned annex. Nine surrounding terraced maisonettes will be redeveloped for visitor accommodation and office space.

The trust has raised more than $1.5 million, but is seeking a further $15 million and can only now start fundraising in earnest, after a law change to allow tax rebates on donations to the overseas scheme.

The museum is planned to have separate areas dedicated to World War I, World War II, the air battle over Europe in WWII, the tunnellers in WWI and a research centre.

McKinnon said the trust was receiving advice from experts at the Auckland War Memorial Museum and Te Papa on the development of exhibits.

"It's not a case of an empty room and a few old rifles inside it.

"I was offered by the Imperial War Museum in London every pos sible piece of World War I equipment that New Zealanders would have used. Their basement is chocka block full of the stuff."

Source: Google News New Zealand | Netizen 24 New Zealand

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