New Zealand Embassy Paris, France
2014 Anzac Day commemorations in France
The New Zealand Embassy marked Anzac Day in France with commemorations at Le Quesnoy, Longueval and the cemetery of Vertigneul on Sunday 27 April 2014.
This year, for the first time, there was a substantial New Zealand Defence Force contingent present including a catafalque party and Maori cultural group. Again, for the first time, commemorations commenced with a dawn service at the Le Quesnoy Communal Cemetery Extension, where 48 New Zealand soldiers are buried. A large crowd assembled for the service which began with a karanga (a Maori call of welcome) followed by the traditional Maori and military observances. Everyone present was clearly moved and impressed by the solemn ceremony.
The party then moved to the village of Romeries where, in the neighbouring Vertigneul churchyard, Sergeant Henry James Nicholas VC and 18 other New Zealanders are buried along with a British and a German soldier. The great niece of Sergeant Nicholas, Judith Reid, spoke movingly on behalf of the family. Sergeant Nicholas was killed on the night of 23/24 October 1918 just before the assault on Le Quesnoy. He had only recently been invested with his Victoria Cross (won at Polderhoek in Belgium) by King George V at Buckingham Palace.
Wreaths were laid including one by the local mayor, Sylviane Marouzé, and small poppy crosses were placed on the headstones to remember all who had given their lives.
The main Le Quesnoy commemoration later that morning began with the traditional laying of a wreath to mark the annual remembrance of the deportations of the Second World War, before the gathering moved to the New Zealand Memorial on the ramparts where wreaths were laid and the NZDF Catafalque Party mounted guard.
Later in the day, wreaths were also laid at the New Zealand Memorial at Longueval, where the New Zealand Division fought its first major action on the Western Front on 15 September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. This was attended by the Sous Prefet and the Mayor, Jany Fournier.
The New Zealand Ambassador to France, Rosemary Banks, praised the contribution of the New Zealand Defence Force and noted in her speeches that although we were at the beginning of the centenary of the First World War, the major events for New Zealand would be in 2016 and 2018 to mark 100 years of enduring friendship with France.