124.000 soldiers from New Zealand, accounting for more than 10 percent of the population, fought in the First World War.
100.000 of them were sent to Western Europe to participate in the Alliance’s combat against the German occupier. 18.000 New Zealanders met their demise...
When the soldiers arrived in the area of the battlefields after a 6-week boat trip, some of them were accommodated at the New Zealand Cyclist Corps, a unit of soldiers on bicycle.
Over the years, 708 soldiers formed part of this New Zealand Cyclist Corps, 59 of them died, 259 were injured.
They were initially responsible for the transferring of messages, controlling traffic, laying of cables and repairing blown-up trenches. The unit was called upon only in 1918 to actively participate in the combat, when the war entered into a decisive phase. This unit was used, amongst others, to defend the strategically important Kemmelberg.
Seven of them would not leave the Kemmelberg alive again.
W. Burrows †16/4/18 Kemmel (Mount)
V. E. Hodson †16/4/18 Kemmel (Mount)
W. E. J. Browne †17/4/18 Kemmel (Mount)
A. W. Hunter †17/4/18 Kemmel (Mount)
T. E. Power †18/4/18 Kemmel (Mount)
T. J. Clinton†18/4/18 Kemmel (Mount)
T.C. Hodgson †23/4/18 Kemmel (Mount)
In order to keep the events of the time in remembrance, the New Zealand Embassy in France contacted the organizers of Ghent-Wevelgem.
They decided to honour the sacrifices of the New Zealand Cyclist Corps indefinitely by the creation of a special trophy.
Given the central role of the Kemmelberg for both the NZCC and Ghent-Wevelgem, a cobblestone was recently taken out of the road surface of the famous Flemish slope during a modest ceremony. A delegation of the Maori culture blessed the stone.
This stone was mounted on a piece of wood that comes from a shelter that was used for the soldiers to relax a bit during the trench combats in World War I. A person worth noticing at that ceremony was the daughter of a New Zealand soldier who helped defend the Kemmelberg.
The trophy was handed to Sam Bewley (Orica-Scott) and Jack Bauer (Quick.Step Floors and the time trial champion of New Zealand at the time) during the press conference. Bewley and Bauer took the artwork to their home country, where it is now a challenge trophy. Every year, the U23 Cyclists Showing Promise champion of New Zealand (a peer of the gross of the soldiers who lost their lives during World War I) can take the trophy home for 12 months.
‘Lest we forget…’ So that the memory of the heroes’ commitment who assisted in fighting for our freedom remains forever in our minds.
Ambassador of New Zealand in Belgium, H.E. Greg Andrews:
“The history of the New Zealand Cyclist Corps is not so well-known in New Zealand. This trophy is an appropriate way to commemorate and honour their deployment and sacrifices made 100 years ago in Belgium and in France. It also celebrates the contemporary friendship that New Zealand has with these two countries, and, not to forget, our shared love for cycling! “
“The history of the New Zealand Cyclist Corps is not well known in New Zealand, and this commemorative trophy is fitting way to remember their service and sacrifice here in Belgium and France a century ago. It also celebrates the modern friendship we enjoy with these countries, not to mention our mutual love of cycling!”