Student moved by monuments to Kiwi soldiers

History came to life for Huia Brown when she was in France to commemorate 100 years since the start of World War I.

She returned to New Zealand on Saturday after spending two weeks in France with 10 other young ambassadors selected to represent the country at the ceremonies, held to mark the start of the Great War on July 28, 1914.

The trip was part of a joint project between the Ministry of Education and its French counterpart, aimed at educating people about the war and its effects on both countries, and ensuring the war was not forgotten.

"It was great," Huia, a 17-year-old Stratford High School student, said about her trip. "We spent most of our time in Arras with our host families."

Arras is in northern France where New Zealand soldiers played an important role in developing the town's large underground military system.

The group visited Le Quesnoy, also in northern France, where New Zealand troops captured 2000 Germans and 60 field guns.

It cost New Zealand the lives of 90 soldiers but their bravery was not forgotten.

"There's land . . . given to New Zealand and we sung a waiata there for the soldiers," Huia said.

Huia was humbled to see a New Zealand gate of honour, a memorial garden, street names and a primary school named in remembrance of a soldier, dotting Le Quesnoy. She said she felt "very sad" when visiting the various memorials at French towns.

"We went to the big crater from one of the mines and we shed tears," she said.

The group was at Ypres to visit the In Flanders Field Museum and also witness the Menin Gate Ceremony where, since 1920, traffic is stopped each night and the Last Post played.

Huia said there was a statue of an unnamed New Zealand soldier in Belgium.

"We were discussing what he could have been called," she said.

"Among our group, we decided on Tane, which is the Maori word for man."

Taranaki Daily News