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Tuesday 25 April 2023

Museum to honour Kiwi soldiers to open in France

A new $15 million museum will open in Le Quesnoy, France, in October, to commemorate the New Zealand soldiers who liberated the town from four years of German occupation during World War One.

The museum will be the first in European for Kiwi soldiers who died on the continent during the war, and will be called the New Zealand Liberation Museum – Te Arawhata. 

"The museum will be Aotearoa's tūrangawaewae on the Western Front," said Sir Don McKinnon, chairperson of the New Zealand Memorial Museum Trust (NZMMT).

"It will be a memorial that commemorates the approximately 12,500 New Zealanders who died in France and Belgium during World War One."

Te Arawhata will open officially on October 11.

Its name means "the ladder" in te reo Māori, after the way Kiwi soldiers used a ladder to scale the town's walls on November 4, 1918.

It also refers to a "pathway to higher things, which enables learnings from the past to be used to reflect on the price and value of freedom and the importance of friendship to support a better future", a statement announcing the museum's opening said.

"It will be a place that honours our past, highlights the importance World War One continues to hold, and tells the extraordinary stories of Kiwi men and women who served in Europe," McKinnon said.

He said allied nations including Australia, Canada, India, South Africa, and the US built commemorative museums in Europe after the first World War, but New Zealand has never had one.

The museum will feature an "immersive storytelling experience" from Wētā Workshop to highlight those stories.

"Visitors will experience a mix of cinematic, sensory, and emotive environments," said Andrew Thomas, senior creative director at Wētā Workshop.

"They will be able to immerse themselves in the dramatic storytelling, sculptural artworks, soundscapes, and projections to connect on an emotional level and remember the people involved in what is a hugely significant event."

Among the exhibits will be a giant "hyper-realistic" soldier.

A number of place names in the town are inspired by the connection between Le Quesnoy and New Zealand, including the Place des All Blacks and the Avenue des Néo-Zélandais.

Le Quesnoy is in northern France, less than three hours from Paris near the Belgian border. 

The town railway station is a one-hour train journey from Lille TGV train station. Lille is a one-hour TGV train ride from Paris and less than 1.5 hours on Eurostar from London.

The New Zealand Liberation Museum – Te Arawhata is located in a renovated mansion house which was the former mayoral residence and later the headquarters of the local Gendarmerie (French Police). The NZMMT purchased the building in 2017 and have been renovating it over the past two years.

Full details of the museum project and fundraising efforts can be found at

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