The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is parading a platoon made up of personnel from the three Services led by a Māori cultural element of Taua (warriors) in the Belgian National Day military parade in Brussels on 21 July.
The NZDF has been invited by the Belgian Armed Forces to march with contingents from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States to mark the First World War centenary.
NZDF contingent commander Lieutenant Colonel Dave Thorsen said the opportunity to march in Belgium’s National Day parade was a great honour.
“The invitation to represent New Zealand during Belgium’s National Day reflects the warm and enduring connection between Belgium and New Zealand.
“Every member of the contingent is ready to put their best foot forward on this special occasion.”
Nationale feestdag van België, or Belgian National Day, is a public holiday in Belgium and is commemorated with military parades and celebratory activities across the country, but especially at the Royal Palace and around the Parc de Bruxelles, where King Philippe of Belgium reviews the parade.
Lieutenant Colonel Thorsen will wear the Ngā Tapuwae kahu huruhuru during the parade. The kahu is worn by NZDF personnel, regardless of rank, military or civilian, who are deemed to embody the values of the NZDF. Lieutenant Colonel Thorsen’s dedication to the New Zealand Army and his community reinforce the NZDF core values of courage, commitment, comradeship and integrity.
The 43-member contingent will also take part in commemorations to mark the centenary of New Zealand’s involvement in the Battle of Bapaume in France and will visit key battlefields and the graves of family members.
The Battle of Bapaume was one of New Zealand’s costliest and most hard-fought battles of 1918 – the costliest year of the First World War for New Zealand troops. During the 11-day battle 800 New Zealand soldiers were killed and 2500 wounded. The action resulted in the liberation of the devastated town of Bapaume.