November 2014: ARMISTICE DAY CAMBRIDGE
For the last three years HMNZS NGAPONA has had the honour of representing the Royal New Zealand Navy at the Armistice weekend in Cambridge, a beautiful town with a population of 18,000, 24kms southeast of Hamilton.
This event was first established in 2001 to raise awareness of Cambridge’s links with their sister-town Le Quesnoy in France and is held over the closest weekend to Armistice Day. New Zealand has a lasting link with the French town since the New Zealand Division stormed the wall of Le Quesnoy on 6th Nov 1918 to free the town from the occupying Germans. This proved to be the final battle for the Kiwis of the First World War, with the Armistice being signed days later. Whilst Cambridge celebrates Armistice Day, Le Quesnoy celebrates ANZAC Day.
The event has been getting bigger every year and for the last three years, it has been held at the Mighty River Domain on the banks of the beautiful Lake Karapiro. Attendees include the Royal New Zealand Navy, the Pipes and Drums of the RNZN, local Cadet Forces. Military re-enactors, Military vehicles and aircraft displays from the NZ Warbirds, there is no better sound than a Spitfire's Merlin engine at full power passing over head. There were also water born displays with steam powered pinnaces and radio controlled model Naval vessels of all shapes and sizes from HDML’s to OPV’s.
This year NGAPONA took two J3 Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIB) to the lake along with recruiting information and public relations material for the general public. CPOWM Mike Richards was the RNZN Liaison Officer and he is also on the Cambridge Armistice Day organising committee.
The RNZN had a site over looking the lake for our displays and recruiting information with accommodation in the chalets at the Lake Karapiro event centre. Surrounding us were numerous re-enactor displays form roman gladiators to a Waffen SS Captain riding past on a world war two BMW motorbike, closely followed by a Russian main battle tank. The main draw card for the 2014 - 2018 events is a life size replica of a WW1 trench for which the re-enactors made full use in their mock battle displays.
Vehicles on display included operational tanks from World War II to modern day, including the amphibious Haglund military tracked vehicle which many kiwis have experienced during operation Deep Freeze.
NGAPONA personal supplied the public with recruiting information, public relations material and live RHIB displays on the lake including man over board drills which proved very popular, with SLT Bergin providing a running commentary. The RHIB’s were also used to keep the display area on the lake clear of rowers and other vessels during the overhead air displays. We had numerous children who remembered us from previous years and made a bee line for the RHIBs and Naval displays. They inevitably left with an arm full of Navy todays magazine, posters and stickers.
Sunday was the official Armistice service held at the Cambridge war memorial. The Maritime Component Commander (MCC) Commodore John Campbell, MNZM along with representatives from New Zealand, France, Italy, Belgium, United Kingdom, America and Australia, local dignitaries and NZDF personnel attended the service. As it was also the 150 Anniversary of the NZ Cadet Force, the RNZN Pipes and Drums led the local Cadet Forces in a street march with MCC taking the salute.
Over all, it was a very busy but very successful weekend for the RNZN and RNZNVR.
PO Burridge, RNZNVR
Image Above: Personnel from NGAPONA who took part in the commemoration.
Image Above: Maritime Component Commander, CDRE J.F. CAMPBELL, MNZM, RNZN takes the salute along with representatives from the NZ ARMY and RNZAF.