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Tomb of the Unknown Warrior dawn blessing ceremony

TUESDAY 13 May, 2003

Tomb of the Unknown Warrior dawn blessing ceremony

A dawn blessing ceremony took place today in Wellington to mark the beginning of construction work on the site of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The Tomb will be located in front of the National War Memorial. The ceremony was attended by representatives from key groups involved with the project, including Minister of Defence, the Hon Mark Burton, representing the Crown, and Mäori Tribal representatives from major tribes around the country.

At the ceremony, senior Te Ati Awa Kaumätua Sam Jackson placed three stones of spiritual significance at the Tomb site. The stones hold the ‘mauri’ or spiritual life force of the people of Te Ati Awa (tangata whenua), giving ‘mana’ or status to the land where the tomb is being built. The stones also represent spiritual links for Te Ati Awa between their original homelands around Mount Taranaki, and the land they settled in Wellington over 200 years ago. It is intended that the stones be buried in the Tomb with the Unknown Warrior.

Col (Ret) Andrew Renton-Green, Chairman of the National War Memorial Advisory Council and the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior Co-ordinating Committee, said “Today’s historic ceremony marks a major step forward in the development of our National War Memorial, a memorial which is a living testament to our heritage. Until now there has been no specific place in New Zealand to remember those who died for their country in foreign lands and who were buried without their identities being known - the British Commonwealth Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey is the only place that honours these New Zealanders, together with their Commonwealth comrades.”

“This Tomb, in our country, honours the unknown New Zealand warrior. It will be our place to pay our respects, reflect, spend some quiet time. It will have meaning for us all, and for future generations.”

The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior will honour the 27,000 New Zealanders who are buried in foreign lands as a result of service overseas. As the soldier’s name, rank, regiment, race, religion and other details are unknown, he will represent all those lost to their families through war.

A New Zealand delegation will travel to France for a ceremony on 2 November to begin the process of repatriating the Unknown Warrior. On return, the Unknown Warrior will lie in State at Parliament to enable New Zealanders to pay their respects. A State funeral will be held on 11 November at Wellington’s Cathedral of St Paul. It will be followed by a funeral procession to the National War Memorial where an interment ceremony will take place.

The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior Project is co-ordinated by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Other government departments involved are: New Zealand Defence Force, Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand, Department of Internal Affairs, Te Puni Kökiri/Ministry of Mäori Development, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It is supported by the National War Memorial Advisory Council, the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, Royal New Zealand Returned Services’ Association, Te Ati Awa (represented by the Wellington Tenths Trust), and the Wellington City Council.

The Studio of Pacific Architecture will develop the forecourt of the National War Memorial. The Tomb is designed by sculptor Robert Jahnke. Images of the Tomb design can be obtained from www.unknownwarrior.govt.nz

2 November 2003 Ceremony in France to mark the Commonwealth War Graves Commission returning the Unknown Warrior into the care of a New Zealand delegation.

7 November 2003 Unknown Warrior arrives in New Zealand.

8-10 November 2003 Unknown Warrior lies in State at Parliament.

11 November 2003 State Funeral at Wellington Cathedral of St Paul. Funeral procession from Cathedral to the National War Memorial. Interment ceremony at National War Memorial.

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