Hamilton Mayor to bestow Honorary Citizenship upon Mayor of Ieper


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5 February 2009

Hamilton Mayor Bob Simcock will bestow an Honorary Citizenship upon the Mayor of Ieper next Monday [9 February] in recognition for the Belgium city's ongoing generosity in caring for and remembering the large number of New Zealanders who fell in the battles around Ieper in World War One.

Current Mayor of Ieper (pronounced ee-per), Luc Dehaene, will accept the certificate on behalf of his city during a small ceremony in the Council Chambers at 11.30am. An award will also be presented directly to Mr Dehaene, in recognition of being the first mayor to hold the Honorary Citizenship.

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 World War One 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 New Zealand soldiers were never recovered from the battle field.

The Menin Gate Memorial is the site for the nightly Menin Gate Ceremony that has been performed every night since 1928, except for a brief time during World War Two when Ieper was under German occupation. Every night at 8pm the road is closed and buglers gather with Ieper locals and visitors under the Menin Gate to play The Last Post.

Residents also regularly tend to the graves of New Zealand and other British Empire soldiers to ensure they are immaculately maintained and cared for.

In 2007 Mr Dehaene, along with three other delegates from Ieper – Chairman of the Last Post Association, Benoit Mottrie, and two buglers from the Last Post Association, Raf Decombel and Rick Vandekerckhove – visited Hamilton and recreated the Menin Gate Memorial during the city's ANZAC Day ceremony, marking the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele.

Mr Simcock said the Honorary Citizenship recognises and reinforces the strong relationship between the two cities.

"Ieper epitomises the phrase 'Lest We Forget'. Their nightly tributes to the ANZACs and other British and Commonwealth soldiers represent the high esteem in which they have held their efforts throughout generations," he said.

"By bestowing this Honorary Citizenship upon the people of Ieper, I hope this will reflect to them how highly we also regard them and their actions."

Guests at Monday's ceremony will include sponsors of Hamilton's ANZAC Service 2007, Hamilton City Councillors and others directly involved with the Mayor's trip in 2007 will also be invited.

Name: Bob Simcock
Designation: Hamilton Mayor
Tel (Direct): 07 838 6976
Name: Kylee Bruce
Designation: Communication Advisor
Tel (Direct): 07 838 6726
Mobile: 021 816 917
Fax (Direct): 07 838 6761
Page reviewed: 05 Feb 2009 12:00am