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NZ marks Battle of Somme centenary

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 14/09/2016

Battle of the Somme. © Getty Images Battle of the Somme. One hundred years ago on September 15, New Zealand troops entered the Battle of the Somme.

It was the country's first major engagement on the Western Front during World War I and it took a huge toll.

Of the 15,000 members of the New Zealand Division who were involved, more than 2100 were killed in action and 6000 were wounded.

The centenary will be marked at Longueval on Thursday and among those present will be Prince Charles, in his honorary role of Field Marshal of the New Zealand Army.

The prince will lay a wreath at the New Zealand Battlefield Memorial and will also meet young people from New Zealand and the Pacific Islands who are in France to learn about their countries' part in the battle.

The government will be represented by Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee and Ambassador to France James Kember.

The commemorations will begin with a dawn service at the memorial at 6.30am (4.30pm NZT).

There will be a New Zealand National Service at the Caterpillar Valley War Cemetery at 11am.

It was from this cemetery that New Zealand's Unknown Soldier was exhumed and reinterred in the National War Memorial in Wellington in 2004.

The day's last service will be a sunset ceremony at the memorial.

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