French mayors visit New Zealand to honour the fallen soldiers of ANZAC

Kiwi soldiers who faced battle in France are being remembered by the mayors of three French towns, all who have close ties with New Zealand from the First World War.

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The mayors of three French towns with close ties to New Zealand are in the country for Anzac Day. Source: 1 NEWS

The mayors will join fellow New Zealanders at Pukeahu National park for the dawn service, following a series of poignant visits today.

“France has a particular connection to Wellington,” Wellington Mayor Justin Lester told 1 NEWS.

“We have the Wellington tunnel and we have the Wellington tunnellers, who are commemorated for the huge contribution they made for the liberation of these French towns.”

“It's a huge part of their history.”

The Arras tunnel, named after French city Arras, is said to be the largest and is based in Wellington.

It was dug by hundreds of New Zealanders in 1916.

The quarries linked by the tunnels were named after New Zealand towns and cities and were used by British troops in the battle of Arras on the Western front.

Wellington Quarry Museum Manager Isabelle Pilarowski says it saved “thousands of lives” as the soldiers used their wits to hide and surprise the Germans the day of the battle.

“The tunnellers worked in France, in Arras, to protect the soldiers during the first World War.” Arras Mayor Frederic Leturque told 1 NEWS today.

Many thousands of Kiwi soldiers lost were killed or wounded and the bodies of more than 1200 were buried in unmarked graves.

One of them was repatriated to the tomb of the unknown warrior at the Pukeahu War Memorial Park in Wellington which represents all the servicemen who never came home.

After ANZAC day the delegation will head north, ending their tour in Waihi where they're celebrating 100 years since men from the New Zealand tunnelling company finally made it home.