NZDF defends Bastille Day colours

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 15:24 16/07/2014

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New Zealand's military has defended its decision to march under regimental colours rather than the national flag at the Bastille Day parade in Paris marking the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.

Soldiers from 76 countries marched up the Champs Elysees on Monday to present their national flags - except for New Zealand, which instead presented the regimental colour of the 2nd/1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (RNZIR).

The colour was carried by Second Lieutenant Harry Llewellyn, Staff Sergeant Shannan Wallace and Sergeant Matthew Pearce.

A New Zealand Defence Force spokesman said the French Ministry of Defence invited them to carry "a military emblem (flag or banner) of a current or dissolved military formation, which had fought, if possible, during the First World War".

He said that after the invitation was received they were also advised they could choose between a military colour or the national flag.

The New Zealand Defence Force has decided it will parade as many regimental colours as possible at overseas commemorations during the period of the WWI centenary.

The spokesman said that when 2/1 RNZIR was formed in 1974, the battalion became eligible to choose from the list of battle honours awarded to the New Zealand Infantry. Thus their standard carried the names of battles from every major New Zealand engagement on the Western Front and from Gallipoli.

"It is the only regimental colour to carry the battle honour for Le Quesnoy which is uniquely significant to New Zealand," the spokesman said.

"The role New Zealand forces played in liberating the town of Le Quesnoy in November 1918 is still remembered by the town every year on Anzac Day, and remains a strong bond in the New Zealand-France relationship today."

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