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Haka performed at Messines centenary

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/06/2017

Prince William has joined leaders and troops from New Zealand, Australia and Ireland in Belgium to honour those killed in the World War One Battle of Messines Ridge, launched 100 years ago on Wednesday.

Troops of the diifferent New Zealand Defence Force franchises performed a moving haka at the start of early morning commemorations at another cemetery attended by New Zealand Governor-General Patsy Reddy. Australia also held a centenary service on the battlefield.

A video from the New Zealand Embassy in Belgium shows current and former troops donned in khaki and navy uniforms paying tribute to their comrades.

"We will remember them," intoned a crowd of several hundred during a ceremony at the Island of Ireland Peace Park, where Queen Elizabeth's grandson, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and Belgium's Princess Astrid laid wreaths.

They were watched by descendants of some of the tens of thousands of men who fought in the week-long battle against German troops dug in on high ground near Ypres.

The battle is significant for Ireland as it saw the mainly Catholic 16th (Irish) Division and the 36th (Ulster) Division, raised in the mainly Protestant north of the island, fight alongside each other, just a year after the failed Easter Rising in Dublin against British rule.

Irish officials said Wednesday's ceremonies were a chance to "reflect on the journey of reconciliation in the century since and to highlight the positive relationship that exists on the island of Ireland and between Ireland and the United Kingdom".

Messines Ridge, generally seen as a victory for British-led forces and a prelude to the bigger Battle of Passchendaele in the same area through the summer and autumn of 1917, is also a focus of World War One remembrance in Australia and New Zealand.

The battle was a major tactical success for the Second British Army. The New Zealand Division was heavily involved and sustained 3000 casualties and 700 killed in action between June 7 and 9.

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