A national commemoration to mark the heavy price paid by New Zealand troops at Messines a hundred years ago will be streamed online tomorrow so all Kiwis can pay their respects to the 700 who died in the battle on 7 June 1917.
Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry says the ceremony will reflect on the desolation at Messines Ridge and New Zealand’s enduring relationship with Belgium.
“The New Zealand Division was one of twelve to take part in the attack. It was a successful but costly battle with 700 New Zealanders killed and 3000 wounded,” Ms Barry says.
“The people of Messines have not forgotten the significant role of New Zealanders and there are reminders of it all around the town. Most prominently a square in front of St. Nicholas Church features a map of New Zealand with Featherston marked on it.”
About 60,000 New Zealanders trained at Featherston Military Camp before serving on European battlefields, including Messines, between 1916 and 1918.
“Space is at a premium inside the Hall of Memories for the national commemoration so it will be live streamed at 11am tomorrow on the WW100, First World War Centenary Programme’s website and its Facebook page so all New Zealanders can share in the experience,” Ms Barry says.
“In Belgium, New Zealand will mark its involvement in the Battle of Messines with two Services - the National Commemorative Service will take place at Messines Ridge British Cemetery at 8am and the Sunset Ceremony will take place at the New Zealand Battlefield Memorial at 7.30pm.”
Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy will attend services in Belgium while Veterans’ Affairs Minister David Bennett will attend the Wellington ceremony.