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City of Arras Representatives to Attend Tunnel Inauguration


Press release

Embassy of France in New Zealand

Wellington, September 26th 2014

Named after the French town where New Zealand soldiers dug tunnels during the First World War, the Arras tunnel will be inaugurated on September 27th.

Representatives of the French Embassy, accompanied by Christophe Sirieys, Deputy Director-General of the city of Arras and Mrs Isabelle Pilarowski, from the Wellington Quarry museum in Arras, will attend the inauguration of the newly constructed Arras Tunnel, which runs under the National War Memorial Park.

Arras Tunnel Inauguration

New Zealand Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Hon Christopher Finlayson will inaugurate the tunnel in the presence of members of the Royal New Zealand RSA and descendants of the New Zealand Tunnelling Company. As part of the official ceremony, which launches the Memorial Park Arras Tunnel open day, Mrs Agnès Hamilton, Deputy Head of Mission of the French Embassy, together with Christophe Serieys will lay a wreath of remembrance. A key project in the New Zealand Government’s commemorations for the Centenary of the First World War, this memorial park will be a focal point of Anzac Day remembrance services in 2015.

The Arras tunnel is adorned with 273 decorative poppies, which symbolise the 2721 New Zealand citizens killed during the Anzac campaign and serve as a reminder that the tunnel is a memorial space.

The French city of Arras and the New Zealand Tunnelling Company

In November 1916, the New Zealand Tunnelling Company was sent to the French city of Arras to extend the city’s existing tunnel system. Prior to the Battle of Arras, the company dug underneath German lines where mines were laid for detonation and during the subsequent successful Allied assault, the Germans were forced to recede by more than 10 kilometres. Following the battle, the Company was entrusted with various tasks in the rebuild of the city of Arras. To navigate their way, tunnellers had named the various routes of the network after New Zealand cities. In memory of their heroic effort, the tunnels were named Wellington quarry, which is now open to the public for visits. In April 2007, a memorial was also unveiled in Arras in remembrance of the 41 members of the company that died during their time there.

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