We followed two Māori descendants of soldiers who battled in Arras attended a ceremony of remembrance of all New Zealanders who served in France. Some of them were the 43 Māori soldiers from the Māori Pioneer Battalion who joined the New Zealand Tunnelling Company in the lead-up to the Battle of Arras.
Angela Karini (Descendant) says, “I'm here to represent my family and my ancestor Toi Karini, who was one of the infantry working in the tunnels”
Sue Baker (Descendant) says, “Another soldier who lost his life was my great-uncle who was a great-grandson of Titi Marae Te Kemara.”
Finance Minister Bill English and other government officials, including French Ambassador Florence Jeanblanc-Risler took part in today's commemorations at the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park.
It marks an event that would see one of the largest underground caverns created beneath the town of Arras which provided an ideal environment for quartering troops and supplies.
Baker says, “What we need to remember is that the men from the New Zealand Tunnelling Company by in large were men who were used to being underground, they read the rock formations.”
In December 1916, 43 Māori soldiers from the Māori Pioneer Battalion joined the New Zealand Tunnelling Company in the lead-up to the Battle of Arras.
Karini says, “The main thing is that we pay homage to them and remember their hidden work in the tunnels, so their legacy lives on for the next generation.”
France will host the centennial of the Battle of Arras commemorations next year.