23 April 2007
Hamilton will host a unique ANZAC Day this year as it recreates the famous Belgium Menin Gate ceremony and incorporates the presence of a visiting delegation from Ieper (pronounced ee-per), Belgium.
The city's 10am civic ANZAC Day ceremony held at Memorial Park, Memorial Drive will follow the same format as the extended Menin Gate ceremony and incorporate several distinctive factors to make the ceremony an exclusive experience.
The four-person Ieper delegation comprises Mayor of Ieper Luc Dehaene, Chairman of the Last Post Association Benoit Mottrie and two buglers from the Last Post Association, Mr Raf Decombel and Mr Rick Vandekerckhove.
Council invited the delegation to visit Hamilton in recognition of the ongoing tribute and honour that European countries, particularly Belgium, pay to our fallen ANZAC soldiers on an ongoing basis.
Ieper is home to the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing which bears the names of around 54,896 missing British and Commonwealth soldiers who fell during WW1 in the Ieper area but have no known grave. Many New Zealand soldiers fought and fell in and around Ieper, particularly during the brutal Battle of Passchendaele from which approximately 1166 NZ soldiers were never recovered from the battle-field. The memorial is the site for the nightly Menin Gate ceremony that has been performed every night since 1928, except for a brief time during WWII when Ieper was under German occupation.
Every evening at 8pm, the road is closed and buglers gather with Ieper locals and visitors under the Menin Gate to play The Last Post.
At the Hamilton re-creation, an image of the Menin Gate will be projected onto large-scale scaffolding on-site at Memorial Park. Hamilton mayor Michael Redman and Mr Dehaene will lay the civic wreaths at a symbolic cross beside the Menin Gate replica.
Mr Redman and Mr Dehaene will be accompanied by Sarah (12 years old) and Barclay (nine years old) Kneepkens who are the great great niece and nephew of Charles Richard Tarrant, 17835, who was working for the Waikato Diary Company as a butter-maker in Hamilton when he enlisted for WW1 service. Mr Tarrant left for service on 4 April from Frankton junction and was a corporal in E Company as 9th Reinforcements to the 1st Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade. He fell during the Battle of Passchendaele on 12 October 1917 whilst serving in the 3rd Light Trench Mortar Battery. Mr Tarrant is one of the Missing listed at the largest British war cemetery in the world, Tyne Cot CWGC Cemetery in Belgium. A wall at the cemetery's rear acts as a continuation of the name inscriptions on the Menin Gate in Ieper and bears the names of some 34,927 soldiers who have no known grave and died from August 1917 to the end of WW1.
The two visiting buglers from Belgium's Last Post Association will sound the Call to Attention, Last Post and Reveille during the ceremony. Each of these are a key part of the Menin Gate ceremony in Ieper.
Hamilton mayor Michael Redman says the presence of the Ieper delegation at the city's ANZAC celebrations is significant for Hamilton and provides an excellent opportunity to recognise those in Belgium who pay enduring tribute to New Zealand soldiers.
"It's an honour to be hosting delegates from Ieper, a town that epitomises the phrase Lest We Forget. The delegation's presence at this year's local ANZAC celebrations provides Hamiltonians with a special link to Passchendaele on the 90th anniversary of this great battle that cost so many New Zealand soldiers their lives and offers an opportunity for our local community to experience the stirring Menin Gate ceremony."
The Belgium delegation's presence in Hamilton this year is also significant because 2007 marks the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele. The village of Passchendaele lies close to Ieper and when fighting began on 12 October 1917 between British Empire forces and German troops, 841 New Zealanders were killed in a matter of only two-three hours and nearly 800 more were injured.
Residents of Ieper and other European villages and countries tend the graves of New Zealand and other British Empire soldiers on a regular basis to ensure these are immaculately maintained and cared for.
Media wishing to meet and interview the visiting Ieper delegates can do so on the afternoon of Tuesday, 24 April. Please contact Naomi Reynolds, Communication Advisor, to arrange a suitable time: DDI: (07) 838 6726, Mobile: 0274 133 448, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
NAME: Lisa Pemberton
DESIGNATION: Civic Events Co-ordinator
TEL (DIRECT): 0 7 838 6977
FAX (DIRECT): 0 7 838 6979
NAME: Naomi Reynolds
DESIGNATION: Communication Advisor
TEL (DIRECT): 0 7 838 6726
MOBILE: 027 413 3448
FAX (DIRECT): 0 7 838 6761