On November 4, 105 years ago, soldiers from the New Zealand Rifle Brigade ascended a single ladder, climbing the 13m high ramparts, to start the liberation of Le Quesnoy after four years of German occupation.
Every year residents of the town commemorate the liberation on November 4 and on Anzac Day. On Saturday the town held a special ceremony at 11am, followed by a lunch, and in the afternoon, Raymonde Dramez, the former Mayor of neighbouring Beaudignies, ran free guided tours of the NZ Liberation Museum – Te Arawhata and its surrounds.
The museum takes the name Te Arawhata (which means The Ladder) from the resourceful way the soldiers made their way over the wall and into the town. While this approach helped to ensure no civilian lives were lost, as they did not fire over the walls, many New Zealand soldiers died and are buried in the cemetery in Le Quesnoy.
Earlier this year, on July 15, the 100th anniversary of the unveiling of the Le Quesnoy New Zealand Memorial was marked. In 1923 the induction ceremony was attended by Leslie Averill, the first soldier up the ladder which led to the liberation. This photo shows Averill pointing towards the location of the ladder.
The memorial plaque, jointly made by New Zealand sculptor Alex R. Fraser and French sculptor Félix Desruelles, is set into the ramparts near the spot where the Kiwi soldiers scaled the walls.
Photo: Leslie Averill at the dedication ceremony for the New Zealand memorial at Le Quesnoy, France, 1923.
Credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref: PAColl-6181-19.