Unknown soldier memorial 'striking tribute' to war dead

By KEVIN TAYLOR

The winning design for a tomb to hold the remains of an unknown New Zealand soldier killed in World War I was revealed yesterday.

Construction of the taxpayer-funded tomb, designed by New Zealand sculptor Robert Jahnke, starts next month.

The pyramid-shaped Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, in front of the National War Memorial in Wellington, will cost $300,000. Redevelopment, including paving, lighting and landscaping, will cost a further $2.6 million.

Prime Minister Helen Clark unveiled the design yesterday, after calling for expressions of interest in designing the tomb last December.

The official dedication of the tomb and a state funeral for the unknown warrior will be held on November 11, Armistice Day.

The Government last year reached agreement with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to repatriate the remains of a New Zealand soldier killed in World War I.

"The tomb will symbolise the 27,000 New Zealanders who are buried in foreign lands as a result of service overseas," Helen Clark said.

About 12,000 New Zealand soldiers were killed on the Western Front in World War I and many were never identified. The remains will be chosen from one of the unknown Kiwi graves, and should arrive in New Zealand on November 7.

Helen Clark said Jahnke's design was a "striking, memorable and fitting tribute" to New Zealanders who sacrificed their lives for peace and freedom.

Returned Services Association president David Cox said it was in harmony with the existing memorial.

Mr Jahnke said his design was "simple yet monumental" and was conceived as a directional pointer to the carillon tower behind it.

He said the stone used reflected the "essence of Aotearoa New Zealand".

"South Island pounamu acknowledges New Zealand as the homeland of the unknown warrior, while imported black granite acknowledges that the unknown warrior will be returning from overseas."

His design can be seen at The Ministry for Culture and Heritage website.

* Helen Clark yesterday announced an essay competition for high-school students aged 15 and over to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War armistice.

The four winning students will travel with a New Zealand delegation to Korea in July to take part in commemoration events.

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