Sunday, June 10, 2007

New Zealand Commemorations of the Battle of Mesen Ridge

Gert and I arrived at the British Cemetery in Mesen just in time to hear the Maori welcome ringing out across the graveyard.

It's an incredibly moving sound for a kiwi so far from home and I felt my throat fill with tears of recognition.

Diplomatic cars pulled up, people hurried past and we wandered up the path just in time for the beginning of the New Zealand Commemorations of the Battle of Messines Ridge.

Without intending to, I ended up in a good position with the press ... going to work as soon as I arrived. The photo opportunities were stunning.

New Zealand Labour Party member, Annette King (her speech is here ) was there representing the New Zealand government, as were more than a few other dignitaries ... Ireland, Belgium, America, Germany, Canada and on it went.

Speeches were made, prayers were said, the Maori women sang again and maybe the ghosts of all the dead soldiers buried or named there looked on, watching us gather together to honour them 90 years after their deaths here in Belgie.

I'll post some of the images in the days ahead but I had gone there expecting something small and walked into an event far bigger than I knew to expect.

Ceremony over and we moved off en masse, through the town to Mesen Church where the unveiling of a plaque honouring Lance-Corporal Frickleton was to take place. Members of his family were there and his granddaughter cried as they uncovered the stone there in front of the church - his great grandson wore his VC and other medals with pride. Afterwards a group of Belgian school children stunned us by singing the New Zealand national anthem in Maori.

If curious, you can read of Lance-Corporal Frickleton here.

It was afterwards, at the reception in the Irish Peace Village nearby that I discovered the Irish Pipe Band pictured previously ... more on them later.


Manic said...

Wow, we even know Maori, we virtually speak all the languages in the world. :)
Those brave men fought for a whole lot and they deserve to be honoured.

womanwandering said...

Lol yes, the brave soldiers fought so that you guys could be in charge of world languages ... since you all speak most of them.

Gert's actually my Babelfish - very useful in countries where I don't speak the language ;)