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Ceremony for Unknown Warrior

20 September 2004 Media Statement

Ceremony for Unknown Warrior

Prime Minister Helen Clark today outlined plans for ceremonies associated with the return to New Zealand of the Unknown New Zealand Warrior and his interment on Thursday 11 November, Armistice Day.

Confirmation of the date follows the issuing of a resource consent by the Wellington City Council which clears the way for construction of the tomb. It will be located on the forecourt in front of the Carillon at the National War Memorial in Wellington.

“The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior honours the 30,000 New Zealanders who have died serving their country in all wars,” Helen Clark said.

“Some 27,000 of our war dead lie in foreign soil and many families have never had the opportunity to visit their graves and memorials.

“One unknown New Zealand soldier will be returned home from a World War I cemetery in France in November. As the soldier’s name, rank, regiment, race, religion and other details are unknown, he represents and honours all New Zealanders who died during war service.

“There are about 9000 service people killed or lost overseas who are known to be New Zealanders by their uniform or badge, but could not otherwise be identified.”

Helen Clark said a New Zealand delegation will travel to France for a ceremony early in November to start the process of repatriating the Unknown Warrior.

“On return to New Zealand the Unknown Warrior will lie in state at Parliament Buildings to enable New Zealanders and others to pay their respects. An arrival ceremony will be held at Parliament on 10 November.

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“A service will be held the following day, 11 November, at the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, followed by a procession through central Wellington to the National War Memorial.

“An interment ceremony with full military honours will then take place.

“I am pleased to see this project reaching completion. The Royal NZ Returned Services Association first asked the New Zealand government to consider establishing a Tomb around sixty years ago, and has actively campaigned for one over the last decade.

“This government agreed to proceed with a Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and work on the project has been underway for several years. Agreement was reached with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 2002 to repatriate the remains of a New Zealand soldier killed in World War I.”

The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior design, by New Zealand artist and sculptor Kingsley Baird, is inspired by the Southern Cross constellation. The design has been developed to fit within the existing forecourt of the National War Memorial.

Maintenance work is currently in progress at the memorial and the construction of the tomb is scheduled to start this month.

Helen Clark said the tomb will be a place where New Zealanders will be able to remember those lost during war, and respectfully acknowledge the sacrifice they made for future generations.”

ENDS

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