Queen Elizabeth II unveils New Zealand Memorial in London

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

The New Zealand Head of State, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of New Zealand, unveiled the New Zealand Memorial at Hyde Park Corner today in London.

Her Majesty told the audience that New Zealanders had written themselves into a special place in the history books.

"Many of them for deeds of exceptional bravery and sacrifice."

"But most of them for simply giving their all in duty, in courage and in dogged determination to fight for peace and freedom from tyranny."

The striking memorial named 'The Southern Stand', commemorates the "strong and enduring" relationship between New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and serve as a focus of remembrance of the shared sacrifice during the two World Wars and other military engagements from the South African War to the present day.

The dedication of the New Zealand Memorial at Hyde Park Corner featured cultural performances, a fly past of aircraft and famous New Zealanders from the world of sport and music.

The monarch, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, and dignitaries from both countries, war veterans and more than 1,500 New Zealanders living and working in Britain.

Among the New Zealand celebrities that attended are former national rugby captain Sean Fitzpatrick, ex-international cricketer Chris Cairns and pop singer Daniel Bedingfield who was born in the country.

Singer-songwriter Dave Dobbyn and soprano Hayley Westenra performed during the ceremony.

The $3 million memorial was funded by the New Zealand Government and consists of 16 cross-shaped vertical bronze 'standards' set out in formation across the north east corner of Hyde Park Corner in central London.

Each standard weighs up to 700kg and through text, patterns and small sculptures commemorates the shared sacrifice of British and New Zealand ex-servicemen, while also celebrating the wider social, cultural and economic ties of the two countries.

The event began with a Royal Guard of Honour formed by the largest contingent of New Zealand forces to be seen in the UK since Her Majesty's Coronation in 1953. Over 250 Army, Navy and Air Force personnel left for London on Sunday 5 November, the contingent comprises a Royal Guard, Cataflaque Party, Maori Cultural Group and tri-Service Band.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said she hoped it could be a part of London that New Zealanders could always call home.

"It's genesis lay in the desire to commemorate the shared sacrifice of New Zealanders in times of war, alongside the people of Britain," Helen Clark said.

"New Zealand's relationship with Britain dated back to the 18th century, and Captain James Cook's exploration of New Zealand," she said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the link between the two nations was not just historic. "The bonds of friendship between our two countries, remain as strong as ever. Our peoples are close, they come and go between our two countries as much as ever, we invest in each others' economies, we share culture and sport - where friends become rivals."

Designed by architect John Hardwick-Smith and sculptor Paul Dibble the memorial consists of 16 cross-shaped vertical bronze 'standards' set out in formation on a grassy slope. Each standard is adorned with text, patterns and small sculptures. "Through the words and images, any New Zealander visiting the memorial will recognise home, and British people may learn something of the relationship between our two countries," explains Paul Dibble.

"We set the memorial in a position where the main pedestrian route runs through the memorial so that visitors will walk amongst the sculptures, encouraging people to stop and explore. Through the words and images, any New Zealander visiting the memorial will recognise home, and British people may learn something of the relationship between our two countries."

The memorial is located at Hyde Park Corner, diagonally opposite the Australian War Memorial which was completed in 2003.

In October 2004, 12 designs teams were selected from the 68 who submitted expressions of interest. These teams submitted designs for the memorial, and an expert panel, appointed by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, selected the final design. The memorial design is a collaboration between Dibble Art Co and Athfield Architects, led by sculptor Paul Dibble and architect John Hardwick-Smith, with Jon Rennie as the team's London representative.

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