For Napier Reserve Forces soldier Dave Garden it was a deployment filled with honour as he joined a large number of Kiwis for the Le Quesnoy commemorations in France last Sunday.

He said he was proud to represent Hawke's Bay and New Zealand at the commemorative services which had a strong Kiwi influence, as it was the New Zealand forces under the leadership of Major General Sir Andrew Russell which freed the small French town from German occupation.

The link between the town and New Zealand has been strong since with several streets bearing Kiwi names, while there is a New Zealand memorial as well as a primary school which bears the name of a New Zealand soldier who fought in the battle for the town on November 4, 1918 — just seven days before the end of the war.

Staff Sergeant Garden, a Reserve Forces soldier with 5th/7th Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, was one of two escorts ceremonially guarding the Regimental Colour of 7th Wellington (City of Wellington's Own) and Hawke's Bay Battalion at the ceremony.


The Colour, which bears the battle honour of Sambre (Le Quesnoy), was front and centre of the commemorations.

"I was extremely honoured to be representing Hawke's Bay in remembrance of those who fought and gave so much before us," Staff Sergeant Garden said.

He has been a Reserve Forces soldier for more than 30 years and has been one of the best sharpshooters in the New Zealand Army, having made its combat shooting team three times and competing internationally against other Commonwealth militaries.

The Le Quesnoy commemorations were a service highlight for Staff Sergeant Garden who was honoured to play his part in commemorating the soldiers who were part of the campaign to free the town which had been occupied by German forces for four years.

It was one of many campaigns Kiwi forces were involved in during WWI on the Western Front — the line that stretched across Northern France and Belgium.

More than 12,000 New Zealanders died in battle on the Western Front during two-and-a-half years of fighting — more than the total lives lost during WWII.

Back in civilian life Garden works as a foreman and carpenter for a Napier business and those skills had proved useful for his Reserve Forces' role.

"I was attached to 2 Engineer Regiment as a builder and helped build a fuel depot in the northern Cook Islands as part of New Zealand's HADR (humanitarian assistance and disaster relief) programme," he said.

"Serving New Zealand and helping our Pacific neighbours in a practical way is one of the best things about being in the Reserves.

"The Reserve Forces need all types of different skills – if you're into fitness, working as a team and giving back to your community, give the Reserves a go."