Thank you Burgemeester Evrard
Your excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Today’s ceremony is a chance to reflect on the sacrifices of a generation of young New Zealanders who gave their lives in Flanders.
It is also a time to acknowledge the people of Flanders and Belgium for looking after the sons of New Zealand in remembrance of that terrible experience of almost a century ago.
The ties that bind our countries were forged here and will never be broken.
This region was the scene of bitter fighting between the British Commonwealth and German forces in the third year of the First World War.
By this stage of the conflict New Zealanders were well acquainted with the horrific realities of modern warfare.
The battle of the Somme had already claimed 2000 New Zealand lives and a further 2,700 were lost at Gallipoli. But darker days were to come.
A key allied objective in 1917 was to drive towards the German coast, capturing Messines and Passchendaele on the way.
These names are now synonymous with the horror and sacrifice of the Western Front.
The battles around Messines and then Passchendaele led to the deaths of more New Zealanders than any other single event in New Zealand history.
Messines was the scene of particularly intense fighting by the New Zealand Division in June 1917.
During one battle of the Passchendaele offensive 800 New Zealand soldiers were killed in action in just one day alone.
By the time they were finally withdrawn from the Ypres front line in February 1918, the New Zealand Division had suffered more than 18,000 casualties – including around 5000 deaths – and won three Victoria Crosses for bravery.
The New Zealand soldier we are laying to rest today – almost a century after his death – is one of those 5000 killed in the Ypres battles.
We know this soldier was a member of the 4th Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade. Beyond that, we know only that he was one of the tens of thousands of New Zealanders who volunteered to serve, and one of the 9,000 New Zealand servicemen who have no known grave.
In this ceremony, we recognise his sacrifice, and the sacrifices of all New Zealanders who fought here.
We can only hazard a reasonable guess at the life this young man would have led in New Zealand before boarding a ship to serve his country.
What we do know for sure though is that is was a time when men were called to make extraordinary sacrifices so that the peoples of our two countries might live in freedom.
That sacrifice is not forgotten is clearly shown by the growing crowds at each year's ANZAC day ceremonies and in the interest of a new generation in the deeds of their forebears in lands faraway.
If you speak to any New Zealander who visits this region they are struck by the hospitality of the people of Flanders and humbled by the way in which the legacy of young New Zealanders who died so far away from home is honoured.
It gives us great comfort to know that the memory of our fallen is so solemnly and actively preserved by the people of Flanders.
For that we cannot thank you enough.
The reburial today is important on so many levels.
It is important to pay tribute to past suffering and sacrifice.
It is also important to remind ourselves to preserve the hard fought gains of peace and democracy.
Lest we forget.