The Le Quesnoy Plaque Unveiling
A plaque was unveiled on the wall of Le Quesnoy in 1923 to commemorate the liberation of the town by the soldiers of theNew Zealand Division. The plaque was a ten ton marble sculture that was made in Paris,and then transported to Le Quesnoy where was installed into the wall.These photos are via Richard Stowers.
Above, left to right: Corporal F.T. Jenner (who took part in the battle), Lieutenant Leslie Cecil Lloyd Averill(who took part in the battle and was the first soldier to scale the walls), General Sir Alexander Godley, Lieutenant Frederick Lang (who took part in the battle), Reverend M. Mullineux (Divisional Chaplain), Colonel G.N. Johnston (Commander of the New Zealand Artillery Division), Corporal E. Thomas (who took part in the battle)and Sergeant H.F. Mosscrop (who took part in the battle.
Below is a newspaper report from the time of the unveiling, which appeared in the Evening Post, Volume CVI, Issue 51, 29 August 1923, Page 12. This comes from the National Library of New Zealand's Paper's Past site.
UNVEILING OF LE QUESNOY MEMORIAL
THE GARDEN OF MEMORY
MAGNIFICENT WORK OF ART
FRENCH AND NEW ZEALAND CEREMONIES
'(By T. J. Pemberton.)
LE QUESNOY, 15th July.
Although Le Quesnoy will be for ever associated with the battle exploits of the New Zealanders, not all who fought with the Division were privileged.to go inside its walls. But those of the 4th Rifles who made their way over .the scuth-west rampart, and the 2nd Rifles who marched in through the Valenciennes gate, will remember well the wonderful greeting they received from the inhabitants who had sheltered in their cellars awaiting deliverance.
The spirit of gratitude is stil! strong in the hearts of the people, and to-day they have given evidence of this gratitude by the wholehearted way in which they have taken part in the ceremonies connected with the unveiling of the New Zealand Memorial, and the official opening of Le Jardin des Souvenirs.
This beautiful memorial, said the priest in his address at the dedication service, 'would always be for them an object of pilgrimage. Now that this brief visit to the ancient walled town of Northern France is over one's only regret is that this monument will never be viewed by the number of New Zealanders.
But to those who are fortunate enough to visit France in the years to come, this quiet garden, this exquisite work of art, will be, as it were, a little part of this land which is forever New Zealand.The whole scheme is grandly conceived. It has been grandly executed.
Le Quesnoy itself is unique. There are other walled towns in France, but probably none so picturesque. There are inner ramparts and outer ramparts, disconnected fortifications which lie like islands beyond the walls, which themselves are broken into salients at intervals. It is a bewildering labyrinth. The brick walls themselves are beautiful in the varying lights. 'Here they are silver-grey, merging into red and brown, again darkening' into purple, and varying ever with the position of the sun. Moss and weeds grow on every vantage point. In the moats themselves there is a wildernessess of grass and weeds and rushes. The parapets of the walls and the island bastions are clothed with elms and spread-poplars, pines, and beeches. Everywhere the vegetation is striving to soften the straight lines of masonry. The old town itself is full of historic associations. During the centuries it has been captured and recaptured several times, and it still bears traces in its architecture of the Spanish occupation.
It was peculiarly fortunate that so charming an approach was found to the memorial site. In the Place d'Armes there stands an archway which gives entrance to a ruined chateau, once the home of Queen Marguerite of Bourgoyne. Passing by the chateau one comes immediately to the sloping inner banks of the ramparts and to an avenue of trees. A path has been laid along this pleasant way to a projecting salient of the walls. Through the walls an archway has been cut. Every ten feet throughout the whole length of the battlement there is a projecting buttress in the inner side - not visible because the grass slopes mount upwards to the top of the walls.
But a cutting has,been made, and two of these buttresses have been disclosed. Between these is the archway. Such new brickwork as was necessary was made' to conform as much as possible with the colouring and picturesqueness of the'original masonry. This now is the entrance to the garden. Over the tops of the arch is a tablet bearing the inscription' "Le Jardin des Souvenirs New Zealand."' The words form part of a circle whioh contains within a fernleaf.
WHERE THE FLAX TREE GROWS
All the earthwork taken from the cutting was placed in the moat beyond the wall to form a causeway to the island; now converted into a New Zealand garden. It has already a beautiful spot, and though much work has gone to the formation of the garden, the disciplined growth and the uncontrolled merge pleasantly into one another and form no startling contrast. The New Zealand plants are The Veronica Traversii which is now flowering, form an excellent hedge to each side of. the balustrade. Then there are Veronica Saligifolia, Verinoca cupressoides, and the Veronica augustifolia, with their fernlike leaves, and a number of. other varieties. Red manuka is flowering, and there is Olearia Albida, and down in the moat where the little stream ripples past are flax and toi toi looking as healthy as if they were growing beside some New Zealand creek. Wistaria creepers have been planted at the top of the moat, and these will be trained down the bank. At the far end of the garden there is an entrance to an underground tunnel, and round this entrance a rock garden has been formed. Six cherry trees grow on the bank of the island just opposite the point at which the scaling ladder was placed. Three stately spreading poplars stand in the moat just on the right of the memorial plaque, and small willow trees are all along the streamlet. At the back of the island is a row of poplars and pines. One approaches the balustrade from the side along a pathway between the garden beds.
A SACRED SPOT
It was necessary to spend some time in this garden when no one else was present to appreciate to the full its beauty and its peacefulness. On a summer evening no place could be pleasanter. With its convenient and beautiful approach it must always be the natural goal of those who seek a few minutes of peace and quietness. And already the inhabitants have indicated their desire to treat it as a sacred spot. Children in the schools have been taught its true significance, and French children know well how to treat the sacred things of life.
The balustrade has a simple squared low wall of polished marble. The flooring is of rough stone, and on each side is a bench of polished marble. On the inner side of the wall is the inscription: "From tie uttermost ends of the earth."
" De lautre extremite du monde"
Thus in its simplicity the balustrade has nothing to distract one's attention from the beauty of the sculpture in the wall across the moat.
Models and photographs will be. available/ of this work of art; but these will give but a slight indication of its beauty. The form it has taken is already well known. It will be remembered that the incident of scaling the walls was sketched for "The' Sphere" by Mr. F: Matania, in January, 1919. Mr. S. Hurst Seager conceived the idea of using this sketch as basis for sculpture. Mr A.R. Fraser, the New Zealand sculptor, made a model embracing Mr. Seager's idea — the representation of the wall-scaling incident and a large figure of triumphant Peace.
Mons. Felix Desruelles, a renowned French artist, undertook the work, and he has reproduced exactly Mr. Fraser's scene of the scaling of the wall, but the figure of Peace is his own conception. It is on a different plane from the military scene, so that the two subjects are distinct, the one depicting a dramatic incident of the war, the other symbolical of Victory and Peace.
In the morning the wall and the statuary are in the shadow. During the afternoon the sun is behind the spectator and the lighting conditions are ideal. In the evening the rose light of the setting sun play with beautiful effect upon the ancient walls and gives life to the figure of Peace. . The figure stands out boldly from the plane of the stone. Beneath her feet is a broken sword. Her right arm is outstretched with perfect grace, and in her hand she holds a laurel wreath. Her left arm is bent, and shoulder-high she carries a sprig of palm. The wings are half-closed. The drapery hangs in natural folds. The face itself is a beautiful one. There is something very living in the whole figure. Looking at if for the first lime it makes one exclaim with admiration, for the artist has got very near to that ideal when the figure seems to breathe.
Mons Desruelles, Mr. Fraser, and Mr. Hurst Seager could have nothing but the greatest gratification with the success of the work — Mr. Seager because he has obtained one of his great ambitions — to place a beautiful monument in a situation which harmonises so perfectly with the subject; and the-sculptors because their finest work is displayed to such advantage. For they knew that the mind of the spectator In such surroundings must be in that quiet and settled state which can best appreciate the spirit of their work. It is a monument which fittingly commemorates the deeds of valour by the men of the New Zealand Division, and especially which series of gallant achievements which maked the great advance from Hebuteren to the Normal Forest during the last few months of the war. It was necessary that both the French memorial and our own should be unveiled with pomp and ceremony, but a better appreciation of the Garden of Memories and the marble statuary was for those, who were able to see them under quiet conditions.
A FAIRYLAND OF FLOWERS
The'citizens of Le Quesnoy entered their patriotic celebrations with wonderful enthusiasm. For weeks they had been preparing paper flowers to make decorative garlands. Every member of the families from the child of seven to the grand-parent of seventy-seven took part in this work of love. During Saturday evening every household was busy mounting the garlands of foliage and coloured flowers on the poles prepared for them. Before darkness set in there was not a street in the whole town which did not have ropes of greenery and flowers from one end to the other. It was a marvellous sight. The colour scheme was delightful. The market place was a blaze of colour.
Down the vista of a side street one could see the coloured electric lights making the place like a fairy palace. Inhabitants of one street, under their own leader, vied with those of another, to make the most brilliant display. Rue Baillon, up which the New Zeafenders came after climbing the wall, was especially beautiful. The. flowers at one lend were rose; they verged into orange and yellow, and then into rose and yellow. At one cross street, a great crown formed of the garlands was hung overhead. Two New Zealand flags were in evidence. Another street leading off Rue Baillon is now called Rue Nouvelle Zelande, and the plate announcing that fact was up for the first time last night.
NEW ZEALAND VISITORS
It was a gay scene therefore that the New Zealand visitors came to towards 9 o'clock on the Saturday evening. Some remained at Le Quesnoy. Sir James Alien and others went through to Locquignol, where they stayed the night. The English party, who had motored from Amiens, included, beside the High Commissioner and Miss Rona Allen, Lord and Lady Milner, the Earl of Liverpool and Lady Liverpool, Sir Edgar Walton (High Commissioner for South Africa), Mr. D. M. Dalal (High Commissioner for India), Mr. M. L. Shepherd (Secretary to the Australian High - Commissioner's Department), Major-General Sir A. J. Godley and Lady Godley, Major-General Sir Fabian Ware (lmperial War Graves Commission), Colonel the Hon W. E. Collins, the Hon. 0. H. Izard and Mrs. Izard, Colonel G. N. Johnston (who was in command of the New Zealand Artillery) Mr. W. R. Davidge (an architect who helped Mr. Hurst Seager), Mr. A R. Fraser (sculptor), Lieut.-Colonel N FitzHerbert, Mr. M. Marks, Mr. and Mrs. Wright (Christchurch), Mr. and Mrs. P. Lewis, Mrs. W. Lewis (Wanganui).
An added attraction was given to the proceedings by the presence of several New Zealand soldiers who took part in th e Le Quesnoy siege. Lieutenant L. C. L. Averill (son of the Bishop of Auckland) was the first to go up the scaling ladder and get over the wall. Lieutenant F. W. Lang, Sergeant H. F. Moscrop, Corporal F. T. Jenner, and Corporal E. Thomas, all of whom took part in the campaign around Le Quesnoy, were also' present in uniform.
Mrs. H. T. Fulton was also a member of the English party, and at the ceremony she wore the medals of her late husband, Brigadier-General Fulton, Commander of the Rifle Brigade, who was killed at Colincamps on 27th March, 1918.
Mr. S. Hurst Seager and Mrs. Seager had been in the town for some weeks, the former naturally being very busy with the final work of erecting the monument, which had come from Paris. The great ten-ton block had to be lowered from the battlement and placed in its niche in the wall. Scaffolding experts from Paris came up to do the work, and all had gone successfully. When this day for unveiling arrived there was nothing left undone. The memorial and the garden were complete in all their details.
To tell all that has been crowded into this eventful day would take more space than is available. The French ceremionles began last, night, when the whole populace gathered round their now monument, which was made by the same sculptor, Mons. F. Desruelles. Victor Hugo's solemn hymn of Dedication was sung by the town choir and played by the band. After this the long list of Le Quesnoy soldiers who had died for their country was read by the Mayor. Inspiring speeches were made, one by an orphan boy. Chopin's "Marche Funebre" was played, and then the Mayor and councillors began their all night vigil, before the veiled memorial, which rose out of a sea of flowers lighted by a string of electric globes embedded amongst them.
SERVICE IN THE CHURCH
A very impressive service. took place thls morning in the church, when High Mass was sung. The church was full, and the civic organisations ware all represented, their leaders carrying banners. After the service the whole congregation went out in procession, led by the priests and acolytes bearing censers. First the French memorial was dedicated. The people then proceeded to the Avenue d'Honneur, and so on to the New Zealand memorial. The priest expressed the gratitude of the people of Le Quesnoy for what the New Zealanders had done, an emblem of which they had in the beautiful memorial before them.
After midday the English, French, and Belgian delegations met at the station outside the town, and, preceded by the local band and a Belgian band, they walked ten abreast up through the garlanded streets to the Town Hall, Marshal Joffre being in the centre of the first rank. A banquet followed, which was attended by all the English visitors, the speakers being Mons. Daniel Vincent (the Mayor), Marshal Joffre, Lord Milner, General Collyns (of the Belgian Army), Senateur Debierre, and Mons. Moram (Prefet dv Nord). Referring to the recovery from, the effects of the war, Lord Miner said it was an indication of the eternal creative powers of the French nation. "I am glad," he said, "to be present on any occasion which recalls the glorious day of our perfect union, and the splendid results in the world that union brought about That that union will be eternal is my earnest hope."
After the banquet, forty-eight civic organisations of the town and the surrounding district marched past Marshal Joffre, and then the great body of people moved down to the battlements. Only invited guests were inside the New Zealand garden, the remainder of the spectators lining the battlements above. It was a wonderfully impressive sight, and in the middle of the ceremony the Paris-Brussels air-mail machine flow over as if to remind the people of the days when aeroplanes were almost as common as birds.
In a brief prayer Captain. M. Mullineux, M.C., dedicated, the memorial. It was intended that the Bishop of Worcester, who was Assistant-Chaplain-General all through the war, should be present to perform this service, but unfortunately, he met with a motor accident a few days ago, and was unable to be present.
Before asking Lord Milner to unveil the memorial, Sir James Allen expressed the thanks of the New Zealand Government to all who had made the completion of the work possible — the French Government, the Mayor of Le Quesnoy the sculptors, and the architect. "Mr Hurst Seager," he said, "has given his soul to the preparation of this monument, as he has to other New Zealand memorials in France, Belgium, and elsewhere." No more beautiful work was to be found among all the memorials in France.
The High Commissioner then referred to Lord Milner's part in bringing out the unified command of the Allied armies and of his interest in the Dominions. It was fitting, therefore, that he should be asked to unveil the memorial.
THE CHANT OF DELIVERANCE
When the veil of flags dropped suddenly from the face of the plaque there were cheers and cries of "Bravo." The National Anthems of both countries were then played by the band, and the "Chant of Deliverance" sung by the choir. This hymn was written just after the Armistice by Monsignor Debailleux, the cure of the town, who was noted among other things for his kindness to the British prisoners at the Palaviciny. He was fined by the Germans for an offence against their laws, but when the New Zealanders arrived and took the Germans prisoners, he firmly demanded his money back from his late masters, and he got it. The music of the song was written by Monsignor Henri Rousee, and is very fascinating, lingering in the memory. Special acknowledgment is given in the verses and the refrain to the valour of the New Zealanders. What is more, this Hymn of Deliverance has come to be acknowledged as a permanent possession, and to be sung on all special occasions. Wreaths were then placed on the balustrade from "The Fighting Men of Le Quesnoy," from ladies of the French Red Cross, "to the Liberators of Le Quesnoy," from General Godley and Lady Godley, from the New Zealand Government, Lord and Lady Liverpool, Mrs. Seager, Mrs. Fulton, and from the clergy of the town.
FROM GALLIPOLI TO LE QUESNOY
From the end of March, 1918, said Lord Milner, when New Zealanders were rushed up to fill the gap between the 4th and 5th Corps of the British Army, until the beginning of November, when the long series of triumphs was crowned by the capture of Le Quesnoy, the New Zealand Division was almost constantly in the thick of the fight. They had very heavy losses, though not so heavy as those which were inflicted oh the enemy. In the titanic struggle, in which millions of men were engaged on both sides, and independent acts of heroism were reckoned by thousands, the achievements of a single unit were apt to be lost sight of. They filled but a little space in the vast picture. But among those who had the opportunity of following up the details of the fight there was but one opinion as to the part played by the New Zealanders in the nine months battle which ended the war.
It was true it was not their first or their only service to the Allied cause. From Gallipoli to Le Quesnoy in every area and every point of conflict ihe New Zealanders fought as gallantly. But because in the last and greatest stage of the whole straggle those soldierlike qualities which had shown from the first had been perfected by experience, they rendered the most conspicuous service. It was true they were more fortunate than many British Dominions, and were always kept at full strength, quantatively and qualitatively. They never suffered any decline, but maintained their excellencies to the very end.
A great soldier, now unhappily lost to us, who was in command of the Fourth Corps, to which the New Zealand Division belonged, had placed it on record that they were unsurpassed in the final series of attacks which led to the enemy suing for peace. The Commander-in-Chief of the British Army had said of them, "No Division in the British Army in France ever gained a finer reputation, alike for gallantry of attack in battle and excellence of behaviour out of the line. Their record does honour to the land from which they come, and to the Empire for which they fought.
UNITY OF SPIRIT
"That is what Lord Haig says," Lord Milner concluded. "What more can a civilian like myself say? What more add or try to say? On the military side, certainly nothing. But there is one other aspect of the question, which must not be forgotten. The splendid acts of New Zealand soldiers on the field of battle were only typical of the wonderful spirit which the whole people of New Zealand allowed during the greatest crisis which has ever befallen the British Empire. There are no members of the British family of nations which have the strength and unity of the whole more at heart than the people of New Zealand, or who may be counted upon at all times to serve with more unselfish devotion. Let me say how glad I am that this celebration of ours to-day is linked with the ceremonies of our great friends and allies. These ceremonies, which are somewhat different but not unrelated, in which we are privileged to take part through a common suffering and sacrifice during the Great War, have bound together the French nation and the members of the British family with bonds most strong and most enduring, which no differences of opinion such as must arise from time to time, even among the best of friends, can seriously impair, much less destroy. But human memory is short. We all live too much in the present. Therefore there is great need on an occasion like this of reminding ourselves how only five years ago we all felt and thought alike, and I know in that unity of spirit we found our salvation."
Marshal Joffre's speech was brief. He came, he said, to bring the salutations of the French Army to the soldiers and people of New Zealand. "We will never forget," said the Mayor of Le Quesnoy. "We will have this memorial in lasting and safe keeping as a token of sincere remembrance."
General Sir A. J. Godley referred to his long connection with the New Zealand Forces both in the Dominion and during the war. There was no opportunity he would miss of showing his love and his admiration for, and his recognition of, what those forces had done in the war. He was glad to see present a distinguished artillery officer of the Division, the other officers and non-commissioned officers who had taken part in the campaign, and one who was very nearly connected with a General of the Division who had made the supreme sacrifice. He could only hope that it would be some consolation to all those in New Zealand who were bereaved that this honour had been done to their dead, and that such a beautiful monument raised to their memory should be in the custody of the people of Le Quesnoy, who would guard it till the end of time.
The sculpture is set in a frame of grey stone, which effectually softens the contrast between the white marble and the brickwork of the battlement. On the left on the stone is the inscription: "In honour of the men of New Zealand through whose valour the town of Le Quesnoy was restored to France, 4th November, 1918." On the other side is the inscription in French. The lettering can be read easily from the balustrade, but it is not so pronounced as to distract the attention from the sculpture itself. At the top on the left is a badge of New Zealand — a wreath of fern with the letters "N.Z." in the centre. On the right is the crest of the town, the wreath of oak leaves and laurels surmounted by a crown. At the ancient gateway in the Place d'Arrnes is another tablet bearing the inscription, "Avenue d'Honneur, Neo-Zealandais."
The impressive ceremony being over, the creat concourse of people walked up the street used by the storming party in 1918. At the head of the procession were the bands and the choir, and the "Hymn of Deliverance," which was sung along the route, caught one's imagination, and seemed to he a fitting climax to 'the ceremony. The happenings of the day were not over, however, for then followed the unveiling of the French memorial. Before the people had dispersed the English party were well on their way to Amiens.
NAMES OF NEW ZEALAND DEAD
On the memorial at Le Quesnoy are to be placed the names of all New Zealanders, who were killed on 4th November, 1918. These are:— Arnott, E. H., Rfin. • Banks, H. D. Lieut.; Bates, G., 2/Lt.; Blennerhassett, A. X., Lieut. ; Burgess; J., Rfn.; Close, F, Pte, Crothere, F. C, CpI.; Daniels, J. E., Rfn ; Edmonds, J. F., Cpl.; Elcock, S. J., L/Sgt.; Everest, H D., Rfn : Ferris, B. A., Pte.; Fleming, J. S., Rfn.; Follett, H. L. C., Pte, 'Gibson L.G, Pte, Hall, F., Pte.; Hartland, J. W., Pte.; Hills, C. F. R., Rfn. Hope, T. A., Pte.; Howell, N. A., Pte.; Hunter J. J., Pte; Jensen, E., Pte.; Johnson, E. G., Pte; Larking, F. C, Pte.; McKinnon, H. E., Major; Mason, L. M., Pte.; Mason, T. A. J., Pte.; Murphy, F. J., Pte.; Murrell, S. A., Capt.; Neilsen, A., Pte.; O'Bnen, L., Spr.; Percy, A., Rfn.; Purdy, A. W.,Pte.; Quilliam, C. W., 2/Lt.; Rae, T. H., 2/Lt.; Riddle, E. S., Pte ; Rigby, E., Pte.; Ross, S., Rfn.; Scully P. A., Pte.; Sinclair, A. J. Rfn.; Stuart, G. L., Cpl.; Thompson, J. H., L/Cpl.; Thomson, C, Cpl.; Waiting, H., Pte.; Watson, T., Rfn.; White, L. O., Pte.; Williamson, J., Rfn.; Williamson, M., Cpl.; Wood, A. C, 2/Lt.; Cornish, W. A., Pte.; Fitzgerald, J. L;, Pte.; Fry, R. T., Spr. ; Grandy, R., Pte.; Heffron, W. T., Pte.; Kennedy, R. T., Pte.; Wilson, W. A., Pte.; Edwards, H. G., Dvr.; Harding F. S., Gunr.; Myles, S. A. W. Pte; Stockman, L. C. Sgt.; Alexander, F. J., Cpl.; Ayling, A, B. ; 2/Lt.; Buck, W. H., Rfn,; Cormack, F. E, (M.M.). Set.;. Crawford, Henry, Rfn.; Evans, F M 2/Lt.; Giles, H., Bfn.; Johnson, G. E., W.; Johnson, H., Cpl.; Jones, E. M., L/Cpl.; Jones, H. H., Pte.; Keating, 8. E., Rfn; Lester, H., L/Cpl.; McCarthy J ,C, Capt.; MacLachlan, A., Cpl; Masson,' R. R., Rfn.; Morrow, F.R., Rfn ; Rose, E. L., Cpl.; Shepherd, P. J Rfn;. ;Stow, E. J.,Rfn,; Darcy-Street, L./Cpl. , Thompson, James, Pte. Thompson J. L. L/Cpl; Trotter,, Arthur Rfn; Twidle, V. S., Sgt.; Woods; L.S. L/Cpl.; Woodward, J., Rfn.; Warren, Joseph, Rfn.; McQutyre, W; Keuzie Quinton Rfn. Craig, Thomas Pearson Pte.; Lyons, Pierce, Pte., Park, Joseph, Rfn.
Several incidents happened during the tour which should be recorded. Lady Liverpool placed a wreath on the French memorial at La Potelle. Mrs. Izard placed one on the memorial at Jolimetz and Sir J. Allen placed one on the Le Quesnoy French memorial. On the way up from Amiens the party went to see a finished cemetery at Corby, and visited the grave of Sergt. D. F. Brown, V.C., at Warlencourt. On the return journey several members of the party including the Hon. Colonel W. E. Collins and Mr. Hurst Seager, made a detour to Longueval memorial, the surroundings of which they found in splendid order. While at Locquignol, Sir James Allen presented the Mayor of the town with the sum of £215 from a fund contributed by the people of New Zealand for the relief of distress in the war zone.