Multi-million dollar New Zealand war memorial underway in France

Plans for a New Zealand War Memorial Museum on the Western Front are one step closer.

Organisers have just finalised the purchase of an historic property in Northern France - and they hope it will become as special as Gallipoli.

Le Quesnoy is the town that never forgot.  It was liberated by New Zealand soldiers almost 100 years ago.

There was no loss to civilian life and the town was saved, but 135 Kiwi soldiers died. 

"We're prone to celebrate defeats, so we've just been up for Passchendaele for example, the British love to celebrate Dunkirk, but this, this is a victory," says Herb Farrant, New Zealand Military Historical Society President, and founder of the New Zealand War Memorial Museum Trust. 

The New Zealand Memorial Museum Trust now wants to open a museum, dedicated to New Zealanders, to mark the centenary next year.

"The Canadians have their museum, the Australians have got one, the South Africans have got one, the Indians have got one, and we never have," says trust patron Sir Don McKinnon.  "And I think we have to admit, probably this should have been done about 50 or 60 years ago."

Le Quesnoy is just over two hours from Paris, and an hour from Passchendaele in Northern France.

Members of the trust have just returned from a trip there to buy a property in the town.

They bought the former French Police headquarters, purchased at half price from the French Government, for just over a million-dollars.

"We actually ran the New Zealand flag up the flag pole, I assume it's still fluttering there," says Mr Farrant.

Phase one will turn the downstairs of gendarmerie into a museum, and refurbish four maisonettes for self-catering accommodation.

To do that, they need to raise $5 million over the next year.

"I'm sure you'll be able to walk through [on] November 4 next year which will be the centenary for that commemoration," says Mr McKinnon. "It might not be everything inside that we would like it to be but we'll be pushing as hard as we can."

There are later plans to extend the museum, and a further five maisonettes.

Military historian Herb Farrant says Le Quesnoy potentially has the ability to become greater than Gallipoli. 

"Because if Gallipoli was said to have established us as a nation, the price of nationhood was paid in full and culminated with the liberation of Le Quesnoy during the Great War.  I think it's the end of the story," says Mr Farrant.

The trust hopes it will be a focus for New Zealanders on the Western Front, to see what Kiwi soldiers endured, but also triumphed.  

They'll begin their appeal for funding from the New Zealand public early next year.