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Unknown Warrior returns home

On Wednesday 10 November 2004 the Unknown New Zealand Warrior returns to his homeland.

The Unknown Warrior is one of over 250,000 New Zealanders who served in overseas wars. He is one of 30,000 New Zealanders who died in service. He is one of over 9000 New Zealanders who have no known grave or whose remains could never be recovered. As the Warrior’s name, rank, regiment, race, religion and other details are unknown, he represents and honours all Zealanders who became lost to their families in war.

On return to New Zealand the Unknown Warrior will lie in state at Parliament to enable New Zealanders to pay their respects.

On Thursday 11 November, Armistice Day, a Memorial Service will be held at Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, followed by a Military Funeral Procession through central Wellington to the National War Memorial on Buckle Street where an Interment Ceremony with full Military Honours will take place. The Warrior will be finally laid to rest in the newly created Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at the National War Memorial.

Media are invited to attend the various ceremonies to mark this unique and historic event.

An outline of the ceremonial programme follows. Individual programmes for each ceremony are online at

Tuesday 9 November

1.00pm Media briefing/walk through venues. Meet on Parliament steps. Media accreditation is compulsory.

Wednesday 10 November

Media accreditation is compulsory for each event. The NZDF Welcome Ceremony at Rongotai is not open to the public. Media are welcome to attend but numbers are restricted.Media at Rongotai will be co-ordinated by NZDF.

9.15am Media briefing at RNZAF Air Movements Terminal, Rongotai.

9.50am Air Force Hercules carrying the Unknown Warrior lands in Wellington.

10.00am – 10.45am Welcome Ceremony at RNZAF Air Movements Terminal, Rongotai.

  • Bearer Party and Military Honorary Pallbearers slow march off aircraft.
  • NZDF Powhiri.

11.40am Unknown Warrior leaves airport under escort for Parliament. Route map online at

11.40am Media in place on Parliament forecourt.

12.00 noon Arrival Ceremony at Parliament to mark the Unknown Warrior’s return.

  • Hearse arrives on Parliament forecourt. Casket taken from hearse.
  • General Salute
  • Maori Warrior leads the Bearer Party across Parliament forecourt.
  • Karanga and haka powhiri by mana whenua.
  • Mana whenua handover of the Unknown Warrior to the nation.
  • Maori warrior leads Bearer Party up Parliament steps to the Legislative Council Chamber.
  • Official Party follow the casket - Governor-General, Prime Minister, Speaker of the House, Leader of the Opposition, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Ministers of the Crown, Commomwealth War Graves Commission Vice-Chairman, Chief of Defence Force, National President RNZRSA, Chairman National War Memorial Adivsory Council, Honorary Pallbearers.
  • Casket placed on catafalque. Vigil mounted.
  • The Governor-General pays her respects and lays a wreath on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen. Presents campaign medals.
  • The Prime Minister pays her respects and lays a wreath on behalf of the Government and people of New Zealand.
  • Wreaths laid by the Speaker, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Leader of the Opposition, Chief of Defence Force, National President RNZRSA, Vice-Chairman of CWGC.
  • The Governor-General and Prime Minister sign In Memoriam book.
  • National veterans’ organisation representatives led by the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs pay their respects. Presentation of the RSA Gold Badge.

2.00pm onwards Unknown Warrior lies in state in the Legislative Council Chamber. Lying-in- state is open to the public until 10.00am following morning.

Thursday 11 November

Media accreditation is compulsory. Media numbers are restricted within the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul. Film and image footage by media within the Cathedral is to be shared with other media.

10.00am Public admission to the lying-in-state concludes.

10.15am Media in position.

10.35am Vigil concludes.

  • Unknown Warrior leaves Parliament for Wellington Cathedral of St Paul.
  • Casket taken from the Legislative Council Chamber by Bearer Party.
  • Casket flanked by Military Honorary Pallbearers on steps of Parliament House.
  • Farewell karanga as Bearer Party descends steps of Parliament.
  • Casket carried at shoulder height on foot with military escort to Cathedral.

11.00am Memorial Service at Wellington Cathedral of St Paul.

  • Two Minutes Silence with Remembrance Bell tolling 11 times.
  • Welcome & Bidding by the Dean of Wellington.
  • Scripture reading by the Chief of Defence Force.
  • Colonel Malone’s Last Letter to his wife read by The Governor-General.
  • Address by the Prime Minister.
  • Remember read by General Sir John Wilsey.
  • Prayers (Multi-faith - Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu).
  • Blessing (combined Blessing by Heads of Churches).
  • Casket taken from the Cathedral to Gun Carriage.
  • Distinguished Veterans’ Honour Guard outside the Cathedral.
  • Piper’s lament (specially commissioned) played from the Cathedral lawn.

12.15pm Military Funeral Procession through central Wellington from the Cathedral to the National War Memorial.

  • As the Procession steps off a One Minute Gun will be fired every minute for 19 minutes from Queen’s Wharf.
    Procession slow marches to the music of Fernleaf Headstones (specially commissioned) and Dead March from Saul.
  • Public are invited to line the Procession route. Route map online at
  • Media bus to National War departs immediately following the stepping off of the Procession. Media must confirm seating allocation for bus by midday Monday 8 November.

1.30pm Interment Ceremony with full Military Honours at the National War Memorial.

  • Ceremony begins on the lower forecourt
  • Arrival of the Funeral Procession, casket removed from the Gun Carriage, casket placed on catafalque on lower forecourt.
  • Peace-Rangimarie Bell is tolled to signal beginning of ceremony.
  • Dunedin RSA Choir sings In Flanders Field from the middle forecourt.
  • Introduction and Prologue by Col Andrew Renton-Green (retd), Chairman National War Memorial Advisory Council.
  • Eulogy by the Governor-General.
  • Homecoming/Te Hokinga Mai read by poet Vincent O’Sullivan (specially commissioned poem).
  • Ceremony moves to upper forecourt in front of the Tomb.
    Casket lifted from the Catafalque. Casket is slow marched to the Upper Forecourt as Tudor Consort choir sings Memento for An Unknown Warrior (specially commissioned).
    Casket placed over the Tomb.
  • Removal, Folding and Presentation of the New Zealand Flag.
  • Karakia by Sam Jackson, Kaumatua of Te Ati Awa.
  • Blessing of the grave by Principal Defence Chaplain, Colonel Julian Wagg QHC.
  • The Committal.
  • Mounting of the Vigil – four person Guard around the Tomb.
  • Tri Service Firing Party with Rifle Volleys (NZDF final farewell).
  • The Last Post.
  • Ode to the Fallen read by Tamati Paraone, National President
    28 Maori Battalion and John Campbell, National President,
    Royal New Zealand Returned & Services’ Association.
  • The Reveille.
  • Placement of Soils in Tomb announced by Col Andrew Renton-Green (retd).
  • Official Party lay floral tributes in the Tomb.
  • National Anthem.
  • Carillon elegy (specially commissioned).
  • Following the ceremony invited guests and members of the public will be able to pay their respects and place a poppy in the tomb. The sealing of the Tomb with a concrete lid and bronze Tomb mantle will then occur. NZDF Vigil will conclude once the Tomb mantle has been secured.

2.30pm Reception hosted by the Prime Minister in the Great Hall, Massey University.

4.00pm Special Session of Parliament.

5.00pm Sunset Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.

The Project is co-ordinated by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Other government departments involved are: New Zealand Defence Force, Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand, Department of Internal Affairs (Visits and Ceremonial Office), Te Puni Kokiri/Ministry of Maori Development, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It is supported by the National War Memorial Advisory Council, New Zealand Historic Places Trust, Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association, Te Ati Awa (represented by Wellington Tenths Trust), Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Transit New Zealand, New Zealand Police and the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand Inc.


Unknown Warrior DVD
Images are available in the image gallery

 This page was last reviewed 29 September, 2011 and is current.

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