Three services recall Kiwis at the Somme

  • 03/09/2016
(Getty, file)
(Getty, file)

Three services will take place in France on September 15 to mark 100 years since the New Zealand Division entered the Battle of the Somme, and Prince Charles will be there.

Early in the morning attendees will walk from the village of Longueval to the New Zealand Battlefield Memorial to take part in a Dawn Service, Lieutenant General Tim Keating, Chief of New Zealand's Defence Force, says.

Later that morning the national commemorative service at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery will include readings by Prince Charles and Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee.

Two replica vintage aircraft will fly past, depending on weather conditions.

Then a sunset ceremony will take place at the New Zealand Battlefield Memorial.

At all three the national anthems of France and New Zealand will be sung. The French equivalent of the Last Post, La Sonnerie Aux Morts, will be played, as well as the traditional Last Post and the Ode of Remembrance will be recited in French, Maori and English.

A poroporoaki, or farewell reflection, has also been composed for the event.

The New Zealand Defence Force contingent travelling to France gather at Ohakea near Palmerston North on Tuesday.

"More than 15,000 New Zealanders served in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 - it's impossible to overstate the impact this terrible battle had on those men and their families back in New Zealand," Lt Gen Keating said.

Prime Minister John Key on Friday welcomed the announcement that Prince Charles will attend the wreath laying.

"We are honoured that he will join New Zealanders as we mark one of the most significant and costly campaigns for our country during the First World War.

Prince Charles will attend the commemoration as Field Marshal of the New Zealand Army, an honorary appointment.

More than 2000 New Zealand soldiers died during the battle and more than half of them have no known grave and are commemorated on New Zealand's Memorial to the Missing in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery.