Prince Charles, wearing the ceremonial uniform of Field Marshal of the New Zealand Army, addresses the national service of remembrance at Caterpillar Valley Commonwealth Cemetery, Longueval (Photo © CWGC/A. Baye)

Somme Centenary events in France honour New Zealand's Fallen

Posted on on 19 September 2016
Share |

Prince Charles joined New Zealanders at Longueval on 15 September 2016 to mark the centenary of New Zealand troops entering the Battle of the Somme.

More than 800 people, many of whom had travelled from the 'uttermost ends of the Earth' took part in commemorative events led by a ceremonial contingent from the present-day New Zealand Defence Force.

The September 1916 attack on the Somme was New Zealand's first major action on the Western Front.

Prince Charles, in his tribute at Caterpillar Valley Commonwealth Cemetery, said: "None came further to serve here than the New Zealanders who, on the Somme, confirmed their reputation as exceptional soldiers.  

"They engaged, with boundless courage and tenacity, in defence of values of liberty that we still hold dear to this day. What occurred here 100 years ago did not create national character – it revealed it." 


The day's commemorations started with a dawn service at the New Zealand Battlefield Memorial, situated close to the initial objective captured by New Zealand soldiers in 1916 as Allied forces renewed their Somme assault, supported by the new weapon of the tank.

New Zealand's Ambassador to France, Dr James Kember, and the Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating, delivered readings describing the horror and the hope of soldiers thrown into industrialised warfare for the first time.

Afterwards, the 200 people present walked down the Chemin de La Nouvelle-Zélande, a road renamed in honour of New Zealand's sacrifice, to join hundreds of others for the national service of remembrance at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery.

A tribute by a member of the New Zealand Defence Force's Maori Cultural Group (Photo © CWGC/A. Baye)

Prince Charles, who holds the honorary title of Field Marshal of the New Zealand Army, took part in the Caterpillar Valley service, accompanied by New Zealand's Defence Minister, Gerry Brownlee, and Jean-Marc Todeschini, the French Secretary of State for Veterans’ Affairs.

Two replica First World War aircraft flew overhead, dropping paper poppies over the now tranquil fields where New Zealand soldiers fought and died in one of the bloodiest campaigns of the Great War.

Caterpillar Valley, cared for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, includes a memorial to more than 1,200 officers and men of the New Zealand Division who fell on the Somme in 1916, and whose graves are not known.

It was from here that the remains of an unidentified soldier were exhumed in 2004 for reburial as New Zealand's Unknown Warrior in a newly-constructed tomb at the National War Memorial in Wellington.

The centenary commemorations ended with a return to the New Zealand Battlefield Memorial for a special sunset ceremony.

New Zealand suffered 8,000 casualties on the Somme - of whom 2,111 soldiers were killed - from a force that numbered 15,000.

The allied attack between the villages of Flers and Courcelette on 15 September 1916 is also notable for the first use of tanks to support British and Commonwealth forces, and the deployment of Canadian troops. Soldiers from Newfoundland - then a separate dominion of the British Empire, but now a Canadian province - were almost wiped out in the opening July 1 attack on the Somme.

Also in Centenary News:

Royal family join tributes to Newfoundlanders who fell at Beaumont-Hamel

New Delville Wood memorial remembers South Africans of all race

Australia marks Battle of Pozières Centenary

'India Remembers' campaign launches on centenary of Somme cavalry attack

Sources: New Zealand Defence Force; Clarence House; Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC)

Images © CWGC/A. Baye

Posted by: CN Editorial Team