26 March 2007
ANZAC Day in Hamilton will recreate the famous Belgium Menin Gate Ceremony and incorporate the unique presence of a visiting delegation from Ieper (pronounced ee-per), Belgium.
Four Belgium delegates being the Mayor of Ieper, the Chairman and two buglers from the Last Post Association, have been invited by Council to participate in the 10am ANZAC ceremony at Memorial Park.
The impetus behind the delegation's visit is Hamilton's recognition of the ongoing tribute and honour that European countries, particularly Belgium, pay to our fallen ANZAC soldiers on an ongoing basis.
Hamilton City Councillor Peter Bos proposed the concept of hosting a Belgium delegation at Hamilton's ANZAC Day and subsequently secured sponsorship from local businesses Acrow Ltd, Admark Visual Imaging Ltd and Hirepool to enable the Ieper visit.
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 were 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 Hamilton's ANZAC Day, the visiting buglers from the Last Post Association in Belgium will play this traditional salute to the fallen warrior as part of the Menin Gate ceremony re-creation.
The Belgium delegation's presence in Hamilton this year is also significant because 2007 marks the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendale. The village of Passchendaele lies close to Ieper and when fighting began on 12 October 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.
Hamilton City Councillor Peter Bos says Hamilton's ANZAC Day celebrations offer an ideal forum for acknowledging the enduring tribute and honour that is bestowed on ANZAC soldiers in Ieper and across Europe.
"The ANZAC theme of remembrance is part of the social fabric in Ieper as shown by the long-standing Menin Gate ceremony and tireless tending of soldiers' graves. Paying nightly tribute to our ANZACs and other British Empire soldiers on a nightly basis for over 70 years is superb example of the gratitude and esteem in which Ieper residents have held these soldiers through generations. Such efforts are also present across Europe and on the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele which saw 270,000 British Forces soldiers wounded and 70,000 killed, our local ANZAC Day celebrations are an opportune time to pay tribute to those in Europe who have honoured our fallen WW1 soldiers for so many decades."
Hamilton mayor Michael Redman says that the presence of the Ieper delegation at the city's ANZAC celebrations is both significant for Hamilton and marks the coming to fruition of a great idea from Cr Peter Bos.
"Following last year's ANZAC Day celebrations, Councillor Peter Bos approached Council with the idea of hosting a delegation from Europe in recognition of the tireless tribute and dignity they bestow upon New Zealand soldiers who fell so far from home. Councillor Bos has since championed this idea and successfully sought corporate sponsorship to enable the Ieper delegation's visit at no cost to ratepayers.
"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."
Attendees of Hamilton's 10am ANZAC ceremony have the opportunity to extend their experience by attending the ANZAC community day at Waikato Museum which will run from 12pm onwards on ANZAC Day. Free tea and scones will be provided and a host of performances will be presented ranging from seminars to poetry and letter readings that remember the fallen and reflect on the past.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
NAME: Cr Peter Bos
DESIGNATION: Hamilton City Councillor
TEL (DIRECT): 0 7 838 6986
MOBILE: 021 285 7019
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