Hastings District Council is financially supporting the building of a museum in a small town in France, due to the special connection between it and Hastings.

The council has given $5000 to the NZ War Memorial Museum in Le Quesnoy, France, as part of its 2018-2028 Long Term Plan.

The connection dates to November 4, 1918, when the town was liberated by New Zealand soldiers.

In a letter to council from museum trustee Sir Don McKinnon, said the New Zealanders chose to use ladders and ropes, rather than grenades and mortar fire, to make their way into the town in order to avoid civilian casualties and preserve the fabric of the walled town.


"They took 2000 Germans prisoner, and there was no loss of civilian life.

"However, 135 courageous New Zealanders died in battle – their sacrifice forged an enduring link between the people of Le Quesnoy and their liberators."

The 2nd Wellington Regiment helped liberate the town, which included a regiment from Hawke's Bay.

Although not the one to bring the siege to an end, this company was part of the force that encircled the town, drove off the German supporting troops and ensured that the eventual capitulation of the defenders did not incur the need for artillery in the town itself.

One member of the Wellington regiment, B Company, was Hawke's Bay man Private Clarence William Evernden.

His grandson, Jim Ferguson, said Evernden joined the New Zealand division in the early part of 1917 aged 24.

He fought as an artilleryman at the Messines and at Passchendaele, before serving at Le Quesnoy.

"He was a linotype operator at the Dannevirke Evening Standard when he volunteered."


"He returned to New Zealand in 1918 deafened and permanently bent – he never spoke of his experiences."

In order to establish a dedicated place in Europe for New Zealanders to remember their family members' sacrifices, a trust was set up and purchased the historic former mayoral residence and surrounding gardens in Le Quesnoy, France.

The plan is to repurpose the mansion into a permanent museum that will exhibit interactive and precious historic collections, focusing on New Zealand's military involvement in Europe and its significant contributions in both World Wars.

An integral part of the experience will provide resources to allow research into the location of New Zealand soldiers' graves in Europe.

The trust aims to raise $15m to convert the mansion to a museum, as well as repurpose its outer buildings into accommodation.

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said she was delighted the council could contribute to the worthy project.

"This town has a very close connection to New Zealand thanks to the actions of our brave soldiers and to have a company from Hawke's Bay included in that makes it fitting that our district contribute towards this initiative that will tell New Zealand soldiers' stories.

"The Hawke's Bay company that was part of liberating the people of this town deserves this recognition along with the praise and gratitude expressed by the citizens of Le Quesnoy."