New Zealand Embassy & Mission to the European Union, Brussels, Belgium
New Zealand and West Flanders
New Zealand has a very warm relationship West Flanders based on the historic bonds that were formed by New Zealand’s involvement in WWI. The sacrifices made by New Zealand soldiers, and other allied soldiers, during WWI continue to be remembered. In addition, there are some sites in Flanders commemorating WWII aircraft losses, including New Zealand aircrew.
Mesen (sometimes also called by its name in French “Messines") has a special relationship with New Zealand, and more recently with Featherston. It also has a special significance for New Zealand as the scene of a major and highly successful attack by New Zealand troops in 1917. The people of Mesen have never forgotten this as they were liberated for a short time from the Germans. Mesen fell again into German hands in early 1918.
The twinning relationship between Featherston and Mesen is a particularly special one. This relationship started in 1975 and recognises an historic link between the two towns. Many of the young New Zealanders who came to fight in Belgium set out from the Featherston Military Camp, where they had had their training.
Mesen is the smallest commune in Belgium. Like many towns in the area, it was devastated by the war and completely rebuilt.
Ieper (also called Ypres in French) was totally devastated in the war and has been rebuilt according to the original plans. It is situated in the centre of the salient and stood on the front line during the war.
The Menin Gate in Ieper records the names of some 54,900 soldiers of the British Empire forces missing in Flanders up until 15 August 1917 (after that date they are listed at the Memorial to the Missing at Tyne Cot).
The names of missing New Zealand soldiers are not listed on the Menin Gate but there are stones bearing the New Zealand Fern and text that refers to the casualties commemorated elsewhere. However, 86 names on the Menin Gate are of New Zealanders who fought in Commonwealth regiments or battalions other than the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
The Last Post Association has been organising the Last Post bugle call nightly at 8.00 pm since 1928 under the arches of the Menin Gate Memorial (except for a period in WWII when the town was under German occupation).