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Memorial to recognise bonds of war

Media release: 21 July 2017

The bond formed between Belgium and New Zealand during the First World War will be recognised today with two special ceremonies at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park.

Outgoing Belgian Ambassador Jean-Luc Bodson will break the ground for a new Belgian Memorial to be built in the park and unveiled in October this year, and will also unveil a model of the memorial which will be on display until October at The Great War Exhibition.

Belgian Ambassador Jean-Luc Bodson breaking the ground for the Belgian Memorial. Image courtesy of Rainer Macalister Photography.

Mr Bodson said he was pleased to be acknowledging the close ties between Belgium and New Zealand.

“The battlefields of the First World War created lasting bonds between Belgium and New Zealand and commemorations like these help reinforce this friendship.

“The Belgian people will forever be grateful for the inconceivable sacrifices that were made by the New Zealanders, here and on the battle front. Let me assure you that these sacrifices are not and will not be forgotten.

“That is where the idea of the traveling exhibition The Belgians Have Not Forgotten came from. This travelling exhibition gives an insight into the landscape, the history and the ceremonies in Belgium and shows how the Great War is remembered in Belgium today.”

Belgian Ambassador Jean-Luc Bodson and Paul Foster-Bell MP unveiling the model of the Belgian memorial now on display at The Great War Exhibition. Image courtesy of Rainer Macalister Photography.

Ministry for Culture and Heritage Manager Heritage Projects Brodie Stubbs said New Zealand had strong and warm relations with a number of communities in Belgium.

“The First World War brought New Zealand and Belgian soldiers and communities together for a common cause. The on-going relationship is founded on our common values and our strong commitments to peace, security and multilateralism.

“We particularly welcome Belgium’s recognition of New Zealand's participation in the First World War and the care that is taken of the thousands of graves of New Zealand servicemen who lie in Belgian soil.”

The Belgian memorial will be one of six in Pukeahu. The Australian and Turkish memorials have already been installed, the United Kingdom memorial will be unveiled on Monday by visiting UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, and memorials for France, Canada and the United States are also to be created.

The Belgian memorial was designed by well-known Belgian artists Niko Van Stichel and Lut Vandebos. The design combines the symbolism of the laurel wreath, traditionally used as a symbol of victory, and the memorial wreath, traditionally used to pay tribute to those who have died in battle. The underlying message is that there are no winners in war – losses are endured by both sides.

The sculpture in situ in East Flanders.

The long-term goal of the artists is to install several similar sculptures around the world to remember the shared experiences of war, and as a symbol of the connection between allied and enemy forces. A similar sculpture is already installed in East Flanders.

Editors’ note

After the ground breaking and unveiling Ambassador Bodson will lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and will attend the Last Post ceremony which happens every day at Pukeahu.

Before the Pukeahu ceremonies Ambassador Bodson will be attending a ceremony at Karori Cemetery to unveil a story board and restored grave and plaque for Queen Elizabeth Service medal recipient Elizabeth Pinfold who was very active on behalf of Belgian citizens during the war.

Updated on 16th October 2017