07 May, 2023
The 20-strong New Zealand contingent marched alongside members of the UK Armed Forces and personnel from across the Commonwealth in the return processions from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace. More than 7000 personnel from 40 nations were involved in the spectacle.
NZDF Contingent Commander Major Mike Beale said it was a pleasure to have led the young and diverse group.
A lot of hard work and discipline went into this by some exemplary soldiers, sailors and aviators. I, like many in the contingent, am proud to have the opportunity to participate in such an historic event.
“The professionalism demonstrated by our hosts in preparing for a parade of such a scale has been of the highest level. It has been done with great professionalism, mixed with good humour. The professionalism of the Commonwealth troops from 40 countries, all with slight variations in their drill, has enabled us to achieve a standard befitting of being at the head of the procession.”
New Zealand Army Artillery Officer, Lieutenant Jessica Hansen, and Royal New Zealand Air Force Avionics Technician, Leading Aircraftman Harris Thien, marched alongside the iconic Gold State Coach, which returned King Charles and Queen Camilla to Buckingham Palace following the Coronation in Westminster Abbey.
“It was amazing to be a part of history. To be representing Aotearoa alongside His Majesty was a moment that will stay with me forever,” Leading Aircraftman Thien said.
For Lieutenant Hansen, it was an honour.
“It was incredibly exciting. I was focussed on keeping in step and ensuring the Carriage reached its destination. What an experience, one I’ll never forget.”
Sergeant Hayden Smith, DSD, from the Royal New Zealand Air Force, represented New Zealand as flag-bearer in Westminster Abbey and wore the NZDF’s Nga Tapuwae kahu huruhuru cloak. Nga Tapuwae means footsteps and the cloak has been woven as a symbolic link between those who have gone before us in the service of our nation and those who serve today.
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, something I never thought I’d be a part of,” Sergeant Smith said.
“It was surreal walking into Westminster Abbey given the scale of the event and the calibre of people who were there. I had to maintain my discipline and keep my head to do what I had to do.
“I feel incredibly humbled. I’m proud to be a Kiwi and represent the NZDF,” he said.