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A lasting friendship between New Zealand and the village of Longueval

The Battle of Flers-Courcelette was launched on  15th September 1916. This battle was the first major engagement of the New Zealand Division on the Western Front, where they lost 7,500 men in just three weeks of fighting.
To mark the 100th anniversary of the battle, commemorations were held from dawn until dusk at the New Zealand memorials in Longueval.

 

 
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La classe de 3ème du collège Gounot à Saint-Cloud était invitée aux commémorations par l'ambassade de Nouvelle-Zélande. Entre les cours et la réalité, le choc de voir en vrai autant de tombes.
Crédit photo : Yazid Medmoun - Cd80
Students from the Gounot high school in Saint Cloud, invited by the New Zealand Embassy, took part in the ceremonies and met Prince Charles before visiting the Historial, Museum of the Great War in Péronne.


 
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Victoria Wallace de la CWGC et son équipe.
Crédit photo : Yazid Medmoun - Cd80
Victoria Wallace, director general of the CWGC and her team: “For the people of New Zealand who live so far away, it is important for them to know that we care for the sites of remembrance and that government representatives are here at Longeuval. New Zealand is composed of many small farming communities and has a lot in common with Longueval. Through a beautiful friendship, the inhabitants share their history, hardships and joy.

 


 
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La famille Parker.
Crédit photo : Yazid Medmoun - Cd80
The Parker family are making their third visit to the areas where their uncle served and was killed. Sylvestre Bresson of Terres de Mémoire Battlefield Tours is their guide. This time, the family have brought their daughter Dallis for the first time, “I am very proud to see that these sites are so well looked after and that the men buried here are not forgotten”.

 


 
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Les jeunes ambassadeurs de Nouvelle-Zélande, Samoa, Niué et Tonga. Invités par le secrétariat d'Etat aux anciens combattants dans le cadre du projet d'Histoire partagée. Ils restent deux semaines en France en famille d'accueil et visitent les sites du Souvenir.
Crédit photo : Yazid Medmoun - Cd80
Young ambassadors from New Zealand, Samoa, Niue and Tonga who were invited by the Minister for Veterans Affairs as part of a common history project. They are staying with French families for two weeks as they visit the sites of remembrance. They were chosen through criteria relating to their personal history and links to France
 
 
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Yves Holbecq, a bagpiper and member of the Somme Battlefield Pipe Band: “My aim is to play at the ceremonies in remembrance of the soldiers. Since 1989, I attend between 35 and 40 ceremonies each year. I play slow tunes, laments and marches. I have a repertoire of over 200 tunes.”

 


Pierrick Capelle, mayor of Flers: “I hope that these commemorations will raise awareness about the role of Flers during the war. New Zealand troops fought to the north alongside the tanks that were being used for the first time on a battlefield. My ambition is to have my village included in the Remembrance Trail so that it can be explored by even more people.
 

A little bit of history

New Zealand was an independent dominion in 1914 with a population of just over a million. The country joined the war on 4th August, alongside Great Britain and the Allies. The New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) was formed by volunteers and was included in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), which saw its first action at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915. After eight months of bloody fighting, the battle was called off and the Allied troops evacuated.
They later arrived on the Western Front, where the New Zealand Division saw its first major engagement on this front during the third phase of the Battle of the Somme in September.
On 14th September, it took up position in Longeuval, between High Wood and Delville Wood ready for the battle of the next day. The New Zealand troops captured the German front lines and Flers. During the following three days of fighting, 1500 New Zealanders were killed and 5000 wounded.
In total, out of the 120,000 New Zealanders who had joined the war effort, 107,000 left for overseas service, 18,500 were killed and 50,000 wounded. The First World War was a turning point in New Zealand history; a baptism of fire that put the country on the same footing as the European nations.
After the war, New Zealand erected seven memorials along the Western Front, including one located in Longeuval in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery. It remembers the 1205 New Zealand servicemen who died in the Somme and have no known grave. At least 125 New Zealanders lie alongside their Commonwealth comrades in the cemetery. In 2004, the remains of a New Zealand unknown soldier were exhumed from this cemetery and re-interred in Wellington. The other New Zealand memorial in Longeuval takes the form of an obelisk and stands upon the Division's original objective. The Somme will forever be a special place of New Zealand WW1 remembrance.

 

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