Ambassador marks women’s war efforts

Belgian Ambassador Marc Mullie presents flowers on to Elsie Nixon’s grave after revealing the new plaque.

Cambridge hosted the New Zealand Belgian Ambassador for the first time this week, with His Excellency Marc Mullie making a special presentation at Hautapu Cemetary.

For their extensive fundraising efforts for Belgium during World War I, Margaret Reynolds and Elsie Nixon were officially recognised as Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Medal holders with Mullie dedicating plaques to their graves.

Margaret Reynolds and Elsie Nixon ran the women’s committee of the Cambridge Patriotic Association, raising thousands of pounds for Belgium. They were two of 33 women in New Zealand to be awarded the Queen Elisabeth medal for service to Belgium in WWI.

Across New Zealand, from the break out of WW1 up to 1920, an estimated £5.7 million ($500 million) was raised for patriotic causes in Europe.

As part of the centenary of World War I, the Belgian government wanted to restore the graves of Queen Elisabeth medal recipients and mark them with a special plaque to commemorate their services.

Belgian Ambassador Marc Mullie and the crowd pay respects to Margaret Reynolds’ grave after revealing the new plaque.

His Excellency Marc Mullie said during the ceremony on Tuesday morning that Margaret and Elsie would be very proud with the turn out of family members and Cambridge residents.

He shared his own family’s WW1 history; his grandfather was born on a family farm in Belgium which was under German occupation at the time, and by the end of the war the farm was destroyed. It left vivid memories for his family, which he said was important to pass on to the next generation.

“And that’s precisely why we’re here today,” he said, “to recognise people who were role models and showed exceptional commitment to do something about human suffering far away.

“You usually think of soldiers that went abroad, but we should not forget there were heroes here too, the family members and those who raised funds.”

Margaret’s great grandson Gavin Reynolds said it was inspirational what the women had achieved and appreciated what was being done to commemorate them.

“It’s amazing to see the generosity of what people did back then, and great that people are still doing something good today to remember them.”

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