The American troops under General Patch were the largest allied forces corps to make New Caledonia into a huge rear command base between 1942 and 1944. However, in Bourail, it is above all the memory of 18,000 New Zealand soldiers who travelled across New Caledonia that remains ingrained in local memory, and that it why Bourail has the sole foreign military cemetery in the region.
Most of the New Zealand troops belonging to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) were actually stationed or located in Bourail. So, naturally, the region has a military cemetery with graves mostly of people from countries affected by the conflict. As such, the cemetery, which is a must-see for every visitor, situated in a place of great beauty and meticulously cared for, is actually a New Zealand enclave on Caledonian soil!
The memory of 18,000 New Zealand soldiersVoir plus
A place of memory
A place of history and memory, the cemetery, opened in 1955, has 242 graves, and a memorial inscribed with the names of 449 missing servicemen. The most recent of the graves is that of Marcel Harnett who, despite the spelling of her first name, was a woman! A nurse on the Gaïacs Plain in WWII, her body was returned to New Zealand after her death. However, five years ago, her family requested the burial of her remains in the Bourail New Zealand cemetery as a testimony to her dedication to this country.
Tribute to the New Zealand soldiers
Each April 25th, on ANZAC Day, tribute is paid to all those buried there. Naturally, surviving veteran fighters to participate in the ceremony are fewer in number today. Still, the people of Bourail maintain a special emotional relationship with the Kiwis, whose character they learned to appreciate during the two years of their “friendly” stay!