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National Commemoration to remember war in France

Ministers’ release: 21 August 2016

New Zealander’s experiences in France during the First World War will be remembered in a special national commemoration on Sunday 18 September, Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry says.

“Since the beginning of the First World War centenary in 2014, New Zealanders have shown we retain a deep and abiding connection to those who endured that terrible conflict,” Ms Barry says.

“This commemoration is a chance for all of us to pay tribute to those who served in France and reflect on the bonds of friendship forged with the French people through shared sacrifice.”

The national commemoration will take place at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington, beginning with a ceremony at 11am.

From midday, France in the Park will showcase French culture with an afternoon of performances and activities featuring French artists, singers and community groups.

Between 1916 and 1918 New Zealand military personnel provided support to the Allied war effort in France, taking part in several battles; on the Somme, at Armentières, Le Quesnoy and in tunnels under the city of Arras.

“A focal point for this year’s national WW100 commemoration will be New Zealand’s Unknown Warrior,” Ms Barry says.

“The Unknown Warrior lost his life in France sometime between April 1916 and November 1918. He was originally buried in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery near Longueval, the site where the New Zealand Division first fought the Battle of the Somme, before his exhumation and interment at the National War Memorial in 2004.

“During the commemoration people will be able to lay flowers or place wreaths at the Tomb as a reminder that even though many of the names and faces of those who fought in the war are unknown to us their sacrifice will never be forgotten.”

Internationally, New Zealand will commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme in France on 15 September, with three services at Longueval, where we will be represented by Hon Gerry Brownlee.

Information for people wanting to attend the War in France national commemoration can be found at

Details about the afternoon's speaker series at the Queen Elizabeth II Pukeahu Education Centre are here.

For more information about the international commemoration marking the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, visit

Updated on 19th September 2016