Le Quesnoy, France
Sunday 25 April 2004
As dawn rose this morning in New Zealand people will have been gathering since before dawn at cenotaphs, memorial halls and soldiers' burial grounds from the main cities to the smallest towns.
Each year they come to remember the sacrifices made for them by their war dead, and in particular those of the two World Wars in which our countries fought side by side.
In Australia, New Zealand and many other parts of the world, this day is known as ANZAC day - Australia/New Zealand Army Corps - and it commemorates the day in 1915, when Australian and New Zealand servicemen landed on the beaches of the Gallipoli Peninsula.
Much has been claimed and more speculated about the tactical wisdom of that landing.
What is beyond question is the courage and tenacity of the men - some no more than boys - who found themselves in an impossible situation and died in the name of freedom.
Three years, and many famous battle sites later, New Zealand troops were to distinguish themselves again, here near Le Quesnoy, in one of the last major actions by New Zealand troops in World War One.
It has been described as our forces' most successful day on the Western Front.
On November 4, about 10 kilometres east from here, New Zealand captured 2000 Germans and sixty field guns.
The 90 New Zealanders who died in that attack were almost the last of the 12,483 who fell on the Western Front between 1916 and 1918.
A week later, on November 11, armistice was declared
We value deeply the ties between New Zealand and the people of Le Quesnoy that began in 1918 and which continue to flourish.
Earlier in 2004, you launched the year-long Oak and Fern project celebrating this friendship.
We are honoured to be with you today to commemorate our shared past and to look to a future of warm and strong links between our people.
As people gather here in peaceful, ancient Le Quesnoy and at home in New Zealand, to remember with deep thanks, the people who gave their lives for our freedom, I'm proud to reflect on New Zealand's changing role in world peace.
It is said that the appalling conditions at what was to become known as ANZAC Cove, in Gallipoli, shaped our identity as a nation. ANZACS were characterised as proud, hard working, world-conscious citizens, capable and willing to play a significant role in world affairs.
These days that role is focused on peace-keeping. Right now New Zealand has troops in Timor Leste, Kosovo, the Middle East, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Solomon Islands, the Arabian Sea, Bosnia and Iraq.
The role of peacekeeper carries its own dangers and can demand very different skills of today's soldier, but almost 90 years on from Gallipoli, New Zealanders and Australians continue to cooperate to maintain the peace and freedom our forebears gave so much to secure.