Anzac Day in Le Quesnoy
By 2LT Paula Turner, 7WnHB
They came from the uttermost ends of the earth.
The wreath laid by 2LT Paula Turner of 7WnHB at Le Quesnoy on Anzac Day (AW-10-0511-2).
Over the weekend of 24th and 25th April, I attended Anzac Day commemorations in a little village in the north of France, Le Quesnoy (pronunciation: lurh ken-wah). The capture by the New Zealand Division of the French town of Le Quesnoy on 4 November 1918 has special significance in New Zealand's military history. This is not merely because it was our last major action in the Great War, but also because of the manner of its capture after four years of German occupation. Le Quesnoy is a fortified village and it was Lt Averill and his men who scaled the walls to liberate the town.
Ever since, the people have been so grateful to New Zealanders. Each Anzac Day, the town of Le Quesnoy remembers the actions of the kiwis and organises a special weekend of remembrance. On Saturday morning, we had an introduction to the relationship between New Zealand and Le Quesnoy. We were led on a tour around the cemeteries of Beaudignies where an unknown soldier from the NZ Rifle Brigade is buried. It was a very moving experience and at another gravesite of only 13 graves, a French man sang on his piano accordion and then read the poem 'In Flanders Fields' in English and in French. We also visited Fort de Levau which is only 10km from Belgium.
2LT Paula Turner, 7WnHB in Le Quesnoy on Anzac Day (AW-10-0511-1).
We had a dinner provided on Saturday evening and the 40 kiwis that had travelled from France, New Zealand and England, enjoyed singing Pokarekare ana and doing a Haka, while the French sang songs in reply.
On Sunday morning, there was a carillon bells concert then a small ceremony held in front of the New Zealand memorial. The New Zealand memorial is a sculpture mounted onto the brick wall showing the men scaling the walls with the quote 'They came from the uttermost ends of the earth.' The Anzac Day ceremony was followed by a big lunch with dignitaries and most of the township.
The links with New Zealand are made permanent with streets named in a kiwi flavour, such as 'Place des All Blacks' and 'Rue Hélene Clark'. The whole town had made a real effort on this day to welcome us and there were New Zealand flags lining the streets. It was a very special weekend and the people of Le Quesnoy were incredibly hospitable. I would encourage others to visit Le Quesnoy if they find themselves in France, I will definitely be returning for another special Anzac Day service in the future.