Wreaths laid opposite the New Zealand Memorial on the ramparts of Le Quesnoy (Photo: Centenary News)

New Zealand commemorates 1918 liberation of Le Quesnoy

Posted on centenarynews.com on 04 November 2018
Share |

New Zealanders gathered in the French town of Le Quesnoy on 4 November 2018 for events commemorating the 100th anniversary of their last major action of the First World War.

The ceremony - at the town’s formidable 17th century ramparts - recalled one of the New Zealand Division’s most daring exploits of WW1.

In November 1918, ladders were used to scale the extensive outer fortifications, culminating in a small group of men, led by Lieutenant Leslie Averill, climbing over the inner wall with a single ladder to penetrate the German defences.

The operation, part of a final Allied offensive launched a week before the Armistice, was commemorated with the New Zealand Memorial, a monument set into the town walls, unveiled in 1923.

The New Zealand Memorial, showing the size of the ramparts. In 1918, the attacking troops gained some height by starting their climb from a nearby sluice gate (Photo: Centenary News)

At Sunday’s commemorations, wreaths were laid overlooking the site by the Governor General of New Zealand, Dame Patsy Reddy, and the French Secretary of State to the Minister for the Armed Forces, Geneviève Darrieussecq. 

Strong ties have been forged between Le Quesnoy and New Zealand in the 100 years since the Great War.

A planned new war memorial museum was dedicated in the town on the November 4, together with Victory Medal - the memorial by New Zealand sculptor Helen Pollock, which will form its centrepiece.

The sculpture has also been displayed at two other WW1 battle sites of special significance to New Zealanders, Arras and Messines.

Like those who died after  travelling from 'the uttermost ends of the Earth’ to fight in 1914-18, Victory Medal will now rest permanently in France.

The Mayor of Le Quesnoy, Marie-Sophie Lesne, pledged to care for the 135 soldiers who fell liberating the town 'as if they were our own sons.'

The former Mayoral residence in Le Quesnoy, destined to become the New Zealand War Memorial Museum, with Helen Pollock's 'Victory Medal' sculpture in the foreground (Photo: Centenary News)

Reporting from Le Quesnoy by CN Editor

Images: Centenary News