Somme centenary marked in France and New Zealand [fr]
In New Zealand and in France, the centenary of New Zealand involvement in the Battle of the Somme has been commemorated.
Ambassador Florence Jeanblanc-Risler attended a ceremony in Pukeahu National War Memorial Park’s Hall of Memories on Sunday with New Zealand’s Acting Prime Minister Bill English, who said New Zealanders had fought in common cause with the ideals of France. The ambassador read from a 1916 article in French newspaper Journal des Réfugiés du Nord (Newspaper of the Northern Refugees) describing how New Zealanders came to France’s aid.
- Ambassador Florence Jeanblanc-Risler and Acting Prime Minister Bill English lay ferns at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park on Sunday. Photo: Mark Tantrum Photography
Now it is the Australians and New Zealanders who are in our home; and the alliance has given way to a true friendship as begun by the Scottish and especially the Canadians.
These Australians and these New Zealanders are for the most part big, well-built chaps, agile and solid, and used to the great outdoors. Watching them march gives one a clearer idea of this war; of its scale, of its seriousness.
They came from the other side of the world to fight by our side. They had few shared interests with us. All in all, it mattered little to them whether or not France is crushed by Germany. They have little to gain from our victory. They came ‘for France’. They say it and repeat it gladly.
‘For France!’ How could we not be touched and moved by this tribute paid to our homeland; by this brilliant affirmation of how the French spirit shines around the world! It seems that our fellow citizens, as much as they appreciate the value of England’s powerful effort, understand the magnitude and the nobility of the special effort made by the Australians and the New Zealanders.
They were popular straight away; they are at once like us, but different. Nothing in their appearance distinguishes them from the British troops other than their big Boer-style hats they wear daringly, somewhat like how our d’Artagnan must have worn his cavalier hat, yet we recognise straight away a certain special look about them.
Perhaps they will be the first ones our fellow citizens see marching down the streets of Lille…
Nothing would better show the true character of this war than the liberation of our countries by these men who have come from so far away.
In Longueval, France, 10 "Young Ambassadors" were among those attending a dawn ceremony, along with New Zealand Minister of Defence Gerry Brownlee, French Minister of State for Veterans and Remembrance, Jean-Marc Todeschini and Charles, Prince of Wales. The high school students are in France as part of the Shared Histories programme.