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By Patrick Decloitre, RNZ Pacific correspondent French Pacific desk

Authorities in the small town of Boulouparis have commemorated Armistice Day on May 8 with a new memorial honouring New Zealand soldiers who were stationed in New Caledonia during World War II.

The ceremony took place in the township on the southwest coast of the main island of Grande Terre in the presence of New Zealand’s Nouméa-based Consul-General Felicity Roxburgh.

Also present were Boulouparis Mayor Pascal Vittori and French Commissioner (South) Grégory Lecru, as well as military and civilian officials — and to the sounds of school children singing the New Zealand, French and New Caledonia anthems.

“It’s not a well-known story, but we wanted to value this so we can honour our common values and the strong connections between New Caledonia, New Zealand and France, and the sacrifices during World War II, especially at this time when the region is facing geostrategic challenges,” Roxburgh told local media Radio Rythme Bleu.

Vittori said: “New Zealanders were with us during the World War II And we wanted this to be remembered . . . and also to enable those New Zealanders who would like to come here and remember.”

The new monument, which represents a New Zealand soldier, with a plaque at the base, is the result of a joint initiative from the local Veterans Association and the New Zealand Consulate.

Further North on New Caledonia’s west coast, in Bourail and the nearby village of Nessadiou, a New Zealand cemetery contains the graves of about 246 soldiers.

Thousands of New Zealand military personnel were based in New Caledonia during World War II, when Bourail was the Headquarters of the 3rd New Zealand Division.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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