Western Front beckons

St Hilda's Collegiate School head girl Harriet Keown (16), who has been selected to represent New Zealand at World War 1 commemorations in France. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
St Hilda's Collegiate School head girl Harriet Keown (16), who has been selected to represent New Zealand at World War 1 commemorations in France. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Sometimes history can be just words on a page.

But when Harriet Keown attends World War 1 commemorations in France later this year, the history of the bloody conflict will come alive for her at some of the battlegrounds her great-great-uncle Cecil Harvey fought on.

''Having that connection will make it a bit more real,'' she said.

The St Hilda's Collegiate School head girl has been selected as one of 10 New Zealand Young Ambassadors to attend World War 1 commemorations in July, as part of the France-New Zealand education project.

The project aims to boost awareness of the war among young people, particularly now the last of the veterans has died. It also aims to raise awareness among the French public about the contribution of the New Zealand division to the fighting on the Western Front.

Harriet said the young ambassadors would stay in northeast France and Paris for two weeks, visiting historical and cultural sites related to the war, and attend commemorative events at places including the Battlefields of the Somme, the Great War Museum, Musee de Wellington (Arras), Flanders Fields Museum and Menin Gate.

She will also take part in the official commemoration ceremonies in Paris on July 14.

''I'm so excited. I've always wanted to go to France. It's definitely a dream trip.

''I've been learning French since year 9 - it's my favourite subject. I also like history, so it's the two combined.''

Harriet said she would keep a record of her experience as a young ambassador on a dedicated website by posting journals, photos and videos.

On her return to New Zealand, she will be expected to share the knowledge she has gained and help with education and promotion of WW1 commemorations among young people.

Harriet said she planned to stay in France for an extra week following the commemorations to visit a great-aunt and uncle near Bordeaux.

''It will be cool to be with them over there. I'll be able to experience the culture and the sights of France for a bit longer.

''It's also a great wine-growing region, but I doubt I'll get to experience that.''

- john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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