New Zealand Consulate-General Noumea, New Caledonia
ANZAC Day in the French Pacific Territories
ANZAC Day 2012 was commemorated in the French Pacific Territories with three ceremonies: in New Caledonia, in both Noumea and at the New Zealand War Cemetery in Bourail, and in French Polynesia, at the graves of New Zealand and Australian World War One soldiers in Papeete.
On 25 April a wreath-laying ceremony was held at the War Memorial in Noumea. New Zealand was represented by Consul General Linda Te Puni, Brigadier Mark Wheeler (Land Component Commander) and Gary Glynn, a 91 year old veteran of the 3rd New Zealand Division who had been based in New Caledonia during World War Two. The ceremony was followed by a reception at Noumea’s historic infantry barracks, in honour of the veterans (French, Australian and New Zealand) present.
The following day, a more intimate and moving ceremony was held at the New Zealand War Cemetery in the village of Bourail, two hours north of Noumea. During World War Two, 20,000 troops of the New Zealand 3rd Division were based at training camps in Bourail. A New Zealand military hospital was also set up there to treat those wounded in Pacific operations. 239 New Zealanders who died in New Caledonia and elsewhere in the Pacific campaign are buried in the War Cemetery that was established in Bourail in 1943. Those at the ceremony were then invited to watch a Maori Television documentary (filmed in 2010) about the New Zealanders’ presence in Bourail during World War Two, and New Zealand’s part in the Pacific Campaign. The New Zealanders made a lasting impression on Bourail, and some at the screening, including the mayor of Bourail, shared their childhood memories.
After a reception hosted by the mayor, the Consulate’s staff visited the Bourail Museum to see an exhibition about the New Zealand troops and the Bourail community during World War Two.
In French Polynesia, New Zealand’s Honorary Consul Eric Malmezac led commemorations at the Uranie cemetery in Papeete. Three soldiers from World War One – two New Zealanders and one Australian – are buried in the cemetery. An Australian soldier, R.W Fuhrstrom, and a New Zealand soldier, Roy J. Leslie, both died of war wounds on the passage back from Europe, passing through Tahiti. The New Zealander P.A Tierney, believed to have fought at Gallipoli, died in French Polynesia a few years after the war.