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New Zealand fallen never forgotten at Beaudignies

New Zealand fallen never forgotten at Beaudignies


By Stephen Olsen in Le Quesnoy, France
Sunday, April 23

As New Zealanders were preparing for ANZAC Day 2011 a New Zealand soldier often described as one of "Christchurch's heroic sons" and who died on the Western Front within days of the 1918 Armistice was being accorded a special placemark on the outskirts of the village of Beaudignies, northern France.

In this quiet rural setting the name of Henry James Nicholas, a Victoria Cross holder, will live on through the designation of a new street in his honour near to where he lost his life, as commemorated on the day by a group of some 200 local villagers and visiting New Zealand citizens.

Amongst this group was Judith Reid, the grand daughter of Nicholas' older sister Alice. Speaking at the ceremony honouring her great uncle - known to her from childhood simply as Uncle Harry, Mrs Reid said she expecially wanted to pass on the family's thanks to the people of Beaudignies and their Mayor, Raymonde Dramez, for the dedication shown not just to her great uncle's memory but to all of those for whom this region is their final resting place.

Henry James Nicholas was only 26 when he was killed in action on 23 October 1918, less than a year after the act of bravery at Polderhoek, Belgium, for which he was awarded a VC.

Judith Reid, great niece of Henry James Nicholas, with the Mayor of Beaudignies, Raymonde Dramez

While in Le Quesnoy over ANZAC weekend PM John Key discusses a project to establish a permanent New Zealand museum and hotel in the town with leading military historian Herb Farrant (left), Russell Briggs of the Auckland War Memorial Museum and UK based architect Dean Brown.

NZ Army Captain Albie Rothman - currently on a tour of duty with the British Army - holds son Ethan, 3, at the Messines Ridge Memorial on ANZAC Day 2011 in France. Captain Rothman laid a wreath at the Memorial on behalf of the NZ Army.

A wreath was also laid on behalf of all New Zealanders living in Europe by Paris resident and well known activist Trevor Richards. Richards told Scoop this was his first tour of the fields and scenes of the 1914-1918 war. Speaking about the prior day's commemoration in Le Quesnoy, a town he has visited, he noted that the New Zealand troops of the time had put their lives on the line "with a cunning plan worthy of Baldrick" in order to avoid citizens of Le Quesnoy being shelled with artillery and "becoming what we'd now call collateral damage".


PM John Key and wife Bronagh meet the lone bagpiper, Warwick Mitchell of New Zealand's Tag Along Tours, while expat kiwi children draped in a flag and wearing a Crusaders rugby jersey look on.

ENDS

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