The Prince of Wales, in his role as Field Marshal of the New Zealand Army, attended the New Zealand Somme Centenary Commemorations in France today. The commemorations honoured those from New Zealand who were killed during the First World War.
The Prince attended a service of remembrance held at the second largest cemetery on the Somme, Caterpillar Valley. Caterpillar Valley contains the New Zealand Memorial to the Missing for the Somme sector -- fighting in September and October alone cost the New Zealand Division more than 1,500 men, of whom some 1,200 have no known grave.
During the service, The Prince lay a wreath and spoke to the congregation. He said:
"Standing in this peaceful scene today it is hard to imagine that a century ago this was an infernal, blasted wasteland, which my predecessor as Prince of Wales, my great-uncle Edward, described as “the nearest approach to hell imaginable”.
Shortly after the two-minute silence, two World War One planes dropped poppies in a touching tribute to the soldiers who lost their lives during the Battle of the Somme.
The Prince then left the Caterpillar Valley cemetery for the New Zealand Battlefield Memorial at Longueval. Here he lay a wreath at the base of the memorial and met young ambassadors from New Zealand, the Pacific Islands and Niue, who are visiting France as part of a joint World War One ‘Shared History’ project, to learn more about their country's’ involvement in the war.
The Prince of Wales then attended a reception hosted by the New Zealand Minister of Defence and the New Zealand Ambassador to France at Delville Wood. The Prince met representatives from the regions of the Somme where New Zealand troops fought and died and Ambassadors and Defence Attachés representing the nations that fought at the Somme.