Les All Blacks dans la guerre

New documentary highlights All Black who fought and died in Le Quesnoy

Former All Black Jimmy Ridland, who died during the liberation of Le Quesnoy, features in a new documentary telling the stories of the 13 All Blacks who were killed in action during the great war.  

All Blacks at War, presented by former All Black Andrew Mehrtens with insights from renowned military historian Dr Chris Pugsley, premieres on Anzac Day on TVNZ 1 at midday.

The documentary will also be available on TVNZ+ and the RNZ National website. An audio version of the documentary will play on RNZ after the Dawn Service at 7am and 9pm.

Photo: NZ Rugby Museum

Documentary producer and director Jude Dobson of Homegrown Television says All Blacks at War is a journey through time connected by the black jersey.

“Mehrts travels the Western Front, grave to grave, and along the way he connects with others who have connections to these men – from current All Blacks and former All Blacks playing in France through to teachers and students from schools in New Zealand.”

Paris-based Mehrtens is a history buff, having taken history papers at university, and jumped at the chance to be part of the documentary.

“I really enjoyed getting to know these men as more than just a number or statistic,” he says. “I found similarities in our backgrounds, like hailing from small town New Zealand or going to my old high school. Nicknames were also part of the rugby team environment back then – Norkey, Doolan, and Jum – just as they were in my time.”

Links to Le Quesnoy

The documentary was made with support from RNZ and philanthropic partners the Lindsay Foundation and the Stewart Family who are both key supporters of the New Zealand Liberation Museum – Te Arawhata in Le Quesnoy.

Te Arawhata commemorates the liberation of Le Quesnoy from German occupation by Kiwi soldiers in World War One. The liberation created a special bond between the people of the town and New Zealand that endures today. Several names in the town are inspired by New Zealand including Place des All Blacks and Rue du Dr Averill (after Second Lieutenant Leslie Averill who was the first to ascend the ladder, which led to the liberation).

The documentary complements the museum’s rugby exhibition, From the Field to the Front, which tells the story of All Blacks who served in World War One and highlights the place the game holds in New Zealand’s cultural fabric.

Invercargill-born Ridland played six games for the All Blacks, including three internationals. During the war he was a rifleman in the 1st Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade. At 36 years old, he died from his wounds on November 5, a day after the liberation of Le Quesnoy.  He was the last of the All Blacks to fall.

Dobson has loved getting to know more about the lives of the 13 men, how they came to be involved in the war, and what their stories reveal about the time.  

“They are a bit like old friends to me now. Every man provides an opportunity to tell something different about the war itself, and I think that together Mehrts and Chris tell the story of our men beautifully.”


When: Premieres Anzac Day, April 25, 2024 at midday

Where: TVNZ 1. Also available on TVNZ+ and the RNZ website. An audio version of the documentary will play on RNZ after the Dawn Service at 7am and 9pm.

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