Le Quesnoy, France - We Shall Remember Them

Le Quesnoy, France - We Shall Remember Them22 Apr 2021

Museum in France dedicated to Kiwi troops gets fundraising boost.

(Project remembers soldiers who liberated small French town).

The building of a new museum and visitor centre in France commemorating Kiwi soldiers in World War One has been given a major boost by a $1 million donation and a number of other significant contributions.

Brendan and Jo Lindsay from the Lindsay Foundation have donated $1 million to the New Zealand Memorial Museum Trust (NZMMT) which is building a museum in the small French town of Le Quesnoy.

The Lindsay’s contribution along with other recent donations takes fundraising for the $15 million project to over $9 million.

Le Quesnoy – a walled city near the Belgian border in north east France – was liberated from German occupation by troops from the New Zealand Division on November 4, 1918.

The Kiwi troops suffered over 500 casualties (dead and wounded) by the time the fighting stopped in the surrounding areas in the coming days.

The battle was renowned for the Kiwi soldiers not aiming artillery fire over the towering walls and scaling them by way of a single ladder. This approach not only helped to reduce damage to the town but also played a major part in no lives of residents being lost.

Trust Chair Sir Don McKinnon says New Zealand is the only country among the Allies that fought on the Western Front that does not have a physical connection to a town or location.

“We need a place to truly call our own and with New Zealand’s strong link to Le Quesnoy it is the perfect place.

“The building we are creating will not only honour the achievements of Kiwi troops in Le Quesnoy but tell the extraordinary stories of Kiwi men and women from both World Wars and commemorate the 12,500 New Zealanders who are recognised by their gravestones in Northern France.”

The donations are part of a major fundraising project by the NZMMT.

McKinnon says the hugely generous donations from The Lindsay Foundation and other donors has helped drive momentum and enabled the project to enter an exciting new phase of finalising development plans.

“We are seeking financial support from all New Zealanders who want to be a part of an incredibly important project. So far the generosity of Kiwis has got us over the halfway point – and these donations have ranged from $10 right through to $500,000.”

In 2017 the Trust purchased the former Mayor’s residence in Le Quesnoy, which has been the headquarters for the local Gendarmerie (French Police) since 1952, to convert into the museum and visitor centre.

McKinnon says the venue will not be a traditional war museum, and the vision for the project is to be an engaging, educational and interactive collection.

There will be accommodation on site which will be particularly beneficial to New Zealand students visiting the Museum.

A little known fact is that Cambridge in New Zealand is the sister town to Le Quesnoy.

“For want of a better term, it needs to be Instagrammable,” says McKinnon. “We want this to be a place where everyone can come, but especially young Kiwis when they finally get to travel overseas again.

“This project not only reflects on the past but serves as a memorial for future generations. It will not only be a special place to understand our history, but an opportunity to celebrate freedom, friendship and the future with the people of France.”

Link: New Zealand Memorial Museum Trust - Le Quesnoy, France