Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Traces of New Zealand in France . . .

In reference to the above story, northern France is literally littered with military cemeteries from the 1914-1918 conflict. Conflict ? How about : Horror. Hundreds of thousands of stones like these dot the landscape. Without making any extraordinary effort to seek them out I visited seven such places as illustrated in this first photo in quick succession this afternoon. With a lump in my throat the size of the sun that was shining down on it all . . . The stones are often grouped by country of origin, rows of English, Australians, Canadians, and more from New Zealand. . . Young men for whom life had hardly started, before it came to violent ends . . .
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There were more officers and soldiers from the New Zealand Canterbury Regiment in a few other cemeteries I saw, like this 21 year old Lieutenant . . .
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From the town of Beaudignies, where Sergeant Henry Nicholas was killed, it is only a short stretch further to Le Quesnoy, a small city fortified by Vauban in the 1600's. I had hardly parked the car when the first street sign I spotted was in honor of New Zealanders . . .
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And just a short distance down that avenue, I stumbled on another sign speaking of New Zealand . . . pointing to a memorial which I'd never heard of before today . . .
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I followed a path along the ramparts of Le Quesnoy until it came to this archway . . .
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Above the arch, a plaque said, "Jardin de Souvenir". . . Memory Garden, New Zealand . . .
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A bit further on, set right into one of the vast rampart walls, there was a large memorial sculpture. This may be a little hard to make out on the photo, but on the left in English it says : "In honor of the men of New Zealand, through whose valor, the town of Le Quesnoy was restored to France 4th November 1918" . . . The bas relief depicts men climbing the fortified walls of the city and going over the top. Carved into the wall on the area where this could be viewed from were the solemn words : "FROM THE UTTERMOST ENDS OF THE EARTH" . . .
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And as I was heading back out of town, this wall caught my eye, where again the name "New Zealand" figured prominently. I had the strong impression that Kiwis are welcome anytime in Le Quesnoy . . .
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6 comments:

Sashindoubutsu said...

The arch is a very intriguing entrance. You have a nice photograph of the memorial park. And the 21 year old lieutenant.. I salute him! :)

louciao said...

Seems a day well spent with gorgeous photos to illustrate it.

AmyR said...

What a beautiful entrance - well done to follow the sign. Sometimes they lead you surprising places. :)

Steve said...

There's something so sad about people from another country altogether journeying to a foreign country just to die... a very pertinent thought given what's occuring in Afghanistan right now.

The Sagittarian said...

Oh you wonderful sod you! I love that archway, gorgeous. And that old poster, obviously the All Blacks were there at some point. A few of our players go to clubs in France, altho' they have never asked me to go too. Can't think why!

Owen said...

Sashin... thanks for dropping in here from wherever you are... to salute the Lieutenant...

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Louc, very well spent indeed, if I could spend days like that full time, I would, never tire of getting out and seeing what is going on in the real world... :-)

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Amy, I am definitely a sucker for an intriguing sign, have been known to head off into wild stretches of woods where wild boar roam while following signs... hope all is well with you and that you're now fully recovered from the pirate party !

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Steve, Kipling's poem about young British soldiers comes to mind, and what happens to them on the plains of Afghanistan, and that was more than a hundred years ago... some things never change...

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Ahhh Saj, I'm sure one day an All Blacks guy is going to sweep you off your feet and carry you off to France, just after Jackson Browne comes and does a week long concert series at a small venue in Christchurch... thank you for clarifying the subject of the shredded posters, I almost missed the obvious, and the "KS" remaining at lower right...