National Commemorative Service, Le Quesnoy
E ngā mana, ngā reo, rau rangatira mā, mai wiwi, mai wāwa, tēnā koutou katoa.
Ahakoa te rau ngā tau ki muri, ka tono ahau, kia mau tonu ki te maia o ngā hoia i whawhai ki te tuku i ngā tangata o Le Quesnoy. Ko te tūmanako, ko te mea i tupu, kaore ano kia puta.
(Distinguished guests from here and afar, greetings to you all.
Although it has been 100 years, I ask that you hold fast to the bravery of those soldiers who fought to liberate the people of Le Quesnoy. The hope is, for whatever reason, what happened a hundred years ago must never happen again.)
Mesdames et Messieurs, c’est un honneur pour moi de me trouver au Quesnoy aujourd’hui pour marquer le centième anniversaire de la libération de la ville par les troupes néo-zélandaises.
(Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honour for me to be in Le Quesnoy on this day to mark the 100th anniversary of the liberation of the city by New Zealand troops).
I specifically acknowledge
Madame le Ministre
Monsieur le Sous Prefet
Madame le Maire
Vos Excellences les Ambassadeurs
Mesdames et messieurs les attachés militaires
Mesdames et messieurs les Quercitains
Fellow New Zealanders
I also acknowledge those of you who are watching the live broadcast of the commemoration in the Cambridge Garden Marquee, the church of Notre Dame de l’Assomption and other sites.
Today we are gathered at the New Zealand Battlefield Memorial to commemorate the liberation of Le Quesnoy by the New Zealand Division 100 years ago.
The memorial depicts the dramatic moment when the men of the 4th Battalion New Zealand Rifle Brigade scaled onto the top of Le Quesnoy’s ramparts.
It also features a symbolic figure representing victorious peace. This figure reminds us all that those who fought here, and elsewhere during the First World War, did so in pursuit of peace and in defence of the values that New Zealanders and our Allies hold dear.
The liberation of Le Quesnoy created headlines around the world at the time. It was a “Triumph of Valour and Tactics”, according to the New York Times.
Much was made of the New Zealanders’ decision to surround the town rather than subject it to heavy bombardment.
As a result, the sixteen hundred French civilians still living in Le Quesnoy were spared from further suffering.
When the New Zealand soldiers entered Le Quesnoy, the people of the town showered them with cheers, tears of joy, hugs and kisses.
Today, one hundred years later, we New Zealanders are touched and delighted by the unique warmth of the welcome we receive in Le Quesnoy.
Such was the drama of the liberation story that senior Allied generals, reporters, photographers and politicians, including the French President himself, flocked to Le Quesnoy to take part in the victory parade.
Today, we remember that over 130 New Zealanders lay dead or dying after the surrounding battle of the 4th of November 1918. The battle was the culmination of a gruelling campaign which began at Bapaume on the 21st of August 1918, resulting in 9,000 New Zealand casualties.
Two thousand of these are buried or memorialised in France, a greater number than in anywhere else in the world.
The Reverend Clive Mortimer-Jones, who was serving as a chaplain with the 1st Wellingtons, understood how the saving of human life, even at the cost of our own, had a redemptive quality which stood out in marked contrast to what he called a “cruel and inhumane” war.
After the battle here, Mortimer-Jones held a funeral service for many of the New Zealand servicemen who are now buried in the Le Quesnoy Communal Cemetery Extension.
When Reverend Mortimer-Jones returned to New Zealand, he arranged for a beautiful memorial window commemorating the battle to be placed in the little Anglican church of St Andrew’s in Cambridge.
He sought to capture something of the spirit of this remarkable place, a spirit that endures to this day. In coming here, and retelling of the story of the battle that took place, we recall the decisions that led to the sparing of life and the restoration of peace and liberty.
Today we remember all the New Zealanders who took part in the battle, and we honour the sacrifice of those New Zealanders and French citizens, servicemen and civilians, who lost their lives here in Le Quesnoy.
Nō reira, ki ngā hoia maia i mate, moe mai i te Rangimarie.
Ki o koutou i huihuinga I tēnei rā.
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa
(Therefore, to those brave soldiers who died, rest in peace.
To all who have gathered today
Greetings once, twice and three times, to you all.)