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NZ's WWI diggers in France remembered

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 17/09/2016

Men of the 2nd Auckland Battalion (New Zealand) in a switch trench, near Flers. 15th September, 1916. British Front - France General Battle Somme. © UIG/Rex Shutterstock Men of the 2nd Auckland Battalion (New Zealand) in a switch trench, near Flers. 15th September, 1916. British Front - France General Battle Somme. New Zealand is remembering those who fought in France in the First World War at an event in Wellington.

Finance Minister Bill English will speak at the ceremony starting at 11am on Sunday at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park and French ambassador Florence Jeanblanc-Risler will give a reading.

The event follows commemorations of the centenary of the Battle of the Somme in France last week where New Zealand was represented by Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee.

Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry says since the beginning of the First World War centenary in 2014, New Zealanders have shown they retain a deep and abiding connection to those who endured that terrible conflict.

"This commemoration is a chance for all of us to pay tribute to those who served in France and reflect on the bonds of friendship forged with the French people through shared sacrifice," she said.

Between 1916 and 1918, New Zealand military personnel provided support to the Allied war effort in France, taking part in several battles on the Somme, at Armentieres, Le Quesnoy and in tunnels under the city of Arras.

"A focal point for this year's national WW100 commemoration will be New Zealand's Unknown Warrior," Ms Barry said.

The Unknown Warrior lost his life in France sometime between April 1916 and November 1918. He was originally buried in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery near Longueval, the site where the New Zealand Division first fought the Battle of the Somme, before his remains were exhumed and interred at the National War Memorial in 2004.

"During the commemoration people will be able to lay flowers or place wreaths at the tomb as a reminder that even though many of the names and faces of those who fought in the war are unknown to us, their sacrifice will never be forgotten," Ms Barry said.

From midday, there will be a France in the Park event in Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, offering an afternoon of performances and activities featuring French artists, singers and community groups.

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