A new Great War museum opened its doors on Thursday October 12 in Le Quesnoy, in the North. It tells the story of the liberation of the small town on November 4, 1918 by the 4th New Zealand Battalion, under German occupation for four years. Little known to the public, it was 18,000 New Zealand soldiers, the “kiwis”, who fought, causing 135 deaths among them, but no civilians were affected.
The museum was named “Te Arawhata” in Maori which translates as “ladder”: the tool that was then used to scale the city wall. The inauguration took place on October 11 in the presence of the city’s mayor and Lieutenant General Jerry Materparae – under the gaze of the descendants of the fighters, military representatives and elected officials. Sir Timothy, husband of Princess Anne of the English royal family, was present. The New Zealanders had indeed responded to the British government’s call to join the Allies.
Housed in a former police station, the museum was financed thanks to the participation of 200 New Zealand donors, to the tune of 8.4 million euros. The private organization New Zealand Memorial Museum Trust is behind the project. The museum promises an immersive experience with sound effects, visual effects and cinematographic projections that immerse visitors in the heart of the battle.
Le Quesnoy follows the path traced by certain museums in the region which commemorate foreign regiments and allies. In the Somme, Villers-Bretonneux has its Franco-Australian Museum, while in Picardy Longueval is home to a South African Delville Wood Memorial.
Multiple museums of the Great War have spread across the territory, particularly in the regions affected by the former lines of the so-called Western Front (Aisne, Somme, Alsace-Moselle, the north-east). The Historial de la Grande Guerre was inaugurated in 1992 in the Somme (Péronne and Thiepval sites). The reference institution in the field is the Museum of the Great War in Meaux, the largest in Europe (with 70,000 pieces collected).