Spirit of Anzacs strong on the streets of Le Quesnoy 

Local hospitality and Anzac ceremony make Kiwis feel at home.

Alice Averill, the great granddaughter of Kiwi soldier Leslie Averill, was among the hundreds of Kiwis and French locals who joined the official Anzac Day ceremony in Le Quesnoy. 

“I think what makes it particularly special is that we’re here with a big group of young Kiwis,” says Alice who was in Le Quesnoy with 30 New Zealanders who now live and work in London.

Alice’s Great Grandfather played a key role in the liberation of Le Quesnoy on November 4, 1918, as the first of the Kiwi soldiers to famously scale a ladder to climb over the town’s ramparts.   

“It’s amazing to share the story of Le Quesnoy and visit the NZ Liberation Museum – Te Arawhata with these friends and see people excited to learn about what happened here – and not forget our ancestors.” 

As is tradition in the town, Anzac commemorations are held on the Sunday closest to Anzac Day. More than 400 people attended the ceremony and procession through the town, including around 100 Kiwis. 

“You come to Le Quesnoy, there are New Zealand flags everywhere, and everyone’s so excited to meet you as a Kiwi. You really feel a true sense of belonging here,” says Alice.

The Anzac ceremony began in the town square at Monument aux Morts, visiting the Monument Eugene Thomas before reaching the New Zealand Memorial on the town’s ramparts. 

While the Kiwi soldier’s approach of using a ladder helped to ensure no civilian lives were lost during the liberation, many New Zealand soldiers died and are buried in cemeteries across Northern France. Wreaths were laid at each stop during the procession with David McLean, the new chair of the NZ Memorial Museum Trust which developed Te Arawhata, laying a wreath on behalf of the museum.

Te Arawhata was the final stop with speeches by dignitaries, including Marie-Sophie Lesne, the Mayor of le Quesnoy. Museum Manager Josh Hansen also spoke about the strength of both the Anzac spirit and the friendship between New Zealand and Le Quesnoy.    

“The Anzac spirit is defined by bravery and determination, but also remarkable camaraderie and friendship,” he said. “In the liberation of Le Quesnoy, this spirit of friendship extended beyond the soldiers and to the people of the town.  The locals welcomed their liberators warmly, just as you, the people of Le Quesnoy, have done to New Zealanders for the last 106 years.”

Following the ceremony, the museum was full all afternoon, including a bus load of visitors from Paris organised by the New Zealand France Association.

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