- Unknown warrior finally laid to rest -
In a heartfelt ceremony at the National War Memorial in Wellington today, the Unknown Warrior was laid to rest as a symbol of New Zealand`s sacrifices in all wars.
The casket containing his remains, which arrived here from northern France yesterday, was lowered slowly into his tomb at the memorial at 1.50pm.
Four army soldiers stood vigil at each corner of the tomb, on a warm and windless day.
A three-volley salute was fired by a tri-service firing party. A moment later, the stirring notes of the Last Post carried across the memorial grounds.
The hundreds-strong audience, including a large number of medal-wearing war veterans, stood watching in silence.
New Zealand`s Unknown Warrior was brought from the World War 1 battlefield of the Somme, and lay in state at Parliament yesterday, before being moved to the Cathedral of St Paul for an Armistice Day memorial service this morning.
The warrior`s casket, draped in the New Zealand flag, was then wheeled on a gun carriage through central Wellington, in a full military funeral procession which began just after midday.
Office workers, shoppers, and those who had come specially to see the Warrior`s return lined the streets five and six deep in places, as he passed under black flags printed with red poppies hanging from the lamp-posts.
A Wellington City Council spokesman told NZPA estimates placed the crowds at up to 100,000, not quite as many as the 120,000 who turned out to see a parade for the third Lord of the Rings film last December.
Today, tourists could be heard asking locals who the casket contained and the replies were simple: "Our Unknown Warrior".
Wellington man Ron Simpson, 68, wiped tears from his eyes as the procession passed on Lambton Quay, which was eerily quiet for a lunchtime.
"The way it was done, the history of it, was beautiful," he told NZPA. "It was just so emotional but the warrior has been returned to us far too late."
Lieutenant Colonel Charles Smith, of the Territorial Force, said he was very moved and could hardly find words.
"I was at Gallipoli on ANZAC Day but this is different -- this is at home," he said.
Beverly Fairfax, of Wellington, had attended the cathedral service with her husband, whose great uncle died in France during WW1.
"None of his family has visited the grave, so it was wonderful for us to be here," she told NZPA.
She described the ceremony and procession as appropriate and dignified.
"It gave me great pride in being a New Zealander. So many people stopped to see this and were silent and respectful."
The 100m-long funeral procession, led by Defence Force chiefs and lines of navy, army and airforce personnel, followed by the band, the Warrior`s casket, and finally officials and war veterans, took about an hour to move along the 2.85km route.
The band played a specially commissioned funeral march -- Fernleaf Headstones -- and Dead March from Saul.
The New Zealand flag was flown at half mast on all government buildings today.
Wellington police told NZPA the only trouble due to the procession was traffic congestion.
The Warrior died 88 years ago and was exhumed from a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery for repatriation.
He was one of 9000 who have known grave or whose remains have not been recovered.
On November 6, a 90-strong New Zealand Defence Force contingent collected the Warrior`s remains at Longueval in France.
Officials said there was next to no doubt he was a New Zealand soldier.
by New Zealand Herald
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