A new sculpture in Cambridge unveiled over the weekend commemorates the relationship the town formed with sister city Le Quesnoy after New Zealand soldiers liberated the northern French town on November 4, 1918 during World War I.
A ceremony was held on Saturday morning at the site of the sculpture bordering Te Koutu Domain and Lake Reserve. Representatives of Queen Alexandra's Mounted Rifles, Waikato Mounted Rifles, 3/6 RNZIR and Veterans led by the Cambridge and Districts Highland Pipe Band marched to the site.
Guests included the Minister of Internal Affairs, Tracey Martin, Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of France in New Zealand, Roldolphe Sambou, Patron of the New Zealand War Memorial Museum Le Quesnoy, Sir Don McKinnon, and Captain Shaun Fogarty of the Royal New Zealand Navy.
Waipa Mayor Jim Mylchreest gave the formal welcome speech and said that the relationship Cambridge has with Le Quesnoy is "important to our national identity as it celebrates a relationship and friendship with a community in France which was liberated by the bravery and ingenuity of New Zealand soldiers in the last engagement of World War I."
A local from Le Quesnoy was also at the ceremony. Twenty-six-year-old Jonathan Baron has been travelling through New Zealand for three months and heard about the ceremony the day before, hopped on a bus from Tauranga and made it to Cambridge just before the ceremony started.
"French people, those particularly in Le Quesnoy, are very happy to welcome New Zealand people and it is the same here today with me. In Le Quesnoy there is a lot to commemorate New Zealand and now there is here too," said Jonathan with his rucksack still on his back.
The 6m high sculpture, which has been a three-year project, was designed by artist Fred Graham who told guests that his inspiration was drawn from the Eiffel Tower and the silver fern.
"The fern leaf is different from the one we see on our sports uniforms. This one reminds us of the ladder that is very prominent in all the stories and illustrations of Le Quesnoy," Fred said.
The $100,000 sculpture was commissioned by the Armistice in Cambridge Committee and was funded by the New Zealand Lottery Grant for World War I Commemorations with the Cambridge Community Board also helping out to cover installation costs.