First NZ offshore war museum to open in Le Quesnoy

New Zealand's first ever off-shore war memorial museum will open its doors for the first time on Sunday (local time).

It's based in a town called Le Quesnoy in northern France, where Kiwis soldiers pulled off the grand finale of the First World War exactly 100 years ago.

A grand old building is the new home for an important part of New Zealand history, which Greg Moyle says will help Kiwis learn about the past.

"All those New Zealanders coming here, this can be the hub they come to stay and learn about what happened here over 100 years ago."

He's part of a trust which purchased a former mayoral manor as a permanent base to commemorate Kiwis who served in both World Wars.

"We're the last of the Allied countries to have a place like this," he told Newshub.

It's a beautiful building, but it needs a lot of work - and a lot of money to do it.

It will cost about $15 million to get it up and running properly, to fix the walls, floors and stairs - and to clean up the mess left by feral cats. That money isn't coming from the Government, so it needs to come from donations.

"I would love to see this place owned by the people of New Zealand," says Mr Moyle.

Le Quesnoy has been chosen because it's the location of New Zealand's biggest victory in World War I. The Germans had captured the commune surrounded by massive embankments, as well as everyone inside it.

All attempts to claim it back had failed until the Kiwis came along, armed with a nine-metre wooden ladder and supported by artillery fire on the flanks.

Second Lieutenant Leslie Averill scaled the wall and surprised the Germans. More Kiwi soldiers followed and the Germans were overpowered.

The entire town was liberated: a town which now reveres New Zealand, with streets named Aotearoa or after Helen Clark and the All Blacks. There are Kiwi flags in shops and homes and te reo Māori is used on café signs.

"It's a really positive story at the end of a war where there's been so much suffering," says New Zealand Defence Force heritage, commemorations and protocol director John McLeod.

That bond strengthened today with Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy opening the New Zealand peace garden near the site of Averill's ladder invasion, before an evening walk through the fortification. Forty-two of Averill's descendants were there to mark the occasion.

"We've been planning this for two years, this trip," says his granddaughter Jenny Forbes. "And it's really, really exciting and emotional to be here."

Dozens of other Kiwis were there too, including David 'Digger' McCulloch, whose father fought at Le Quesnoy.

"If Dad was still here, he'd be looking down and saying 'what the hell's going on?' But he'd have a tear in his eye I know."

That's something many are sure to have at the official centenary commemorations on Sunday.