Exhibit about Otago war hero

Lieutenant Colonel James Waddell
Lieutenant Colonel James Waddell
One of New Zealand's greatest war heroes - but one of the least known - will have an exhibition outlining his remarkable feats open in France today.

The exhibition at Belloy-en-Santerre, Picardy, tells the little-known story of Dunedin-born Lieutenant Colonel James Waddell who spent 20 years in the French Foreign Legion and fought under the French flag during World War 1.

The exhibition, supported by the New Zealand-France Friendship Fund, coincides with centenary commemorations in France of the Battle of the Somme starting this month. Curator of the exhibition, New Zealander Jasmine Millet, said the story of Lt Col Waddell took her seven years to research and was a "fascinating'' tale.

"I think his military achievements make him one of New Zealand's most important military figures,'' Ms Millet said.

"It's one we in both countries should know more about.''

The exhibition explains how a working class boy from the bottom of the world wound up as an officer in the Foreign Legion and was made a Commander of the Legion of Honour and lived to tell the tale, she said.

"He gave brilliant service as a battalion commander of Legion troops at Gallipoli, on the Somme, at Champagne and Verdun,'' Ms Millet said.

The exhibition will be shown in Belloy-en-Santerre until the end of August, after which it will travel around the Santerre region of the Somme.

Association Santerre secretary Marcel Queyrat said: "We are delighted to be able to present this unique exhibition as part of our local centenary commemorations of the Battle of the Somme.''

Born in Dunedin on October 11, 1873, Lt Col Waddell spent most of his childhood in Cromwell but attended Otago Boys High School and the University of Canterbury.

He was awarded the Croix de Guerre eight times, the first for his exploits at Gallipoli in 1915.

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