“To be standing on the same battlegrounds exactly 100 years on was an incredible experience I will never forget,” says Lichtenstein.
An Auckland Sea Cadet Warrant Officer, Lichtenstein travelled with the New Zealand Defence Force Battle of the Somme centenary contingent.
Lichtenstein also had a strong personal connection with the commemorations as his two great-great uncles - brothers Robert Weir and James Weir - fought at the Somme. James returned home but Robert was killed in action in 1918.
Lichtenstein’s official role in the commemorations was to deliver the New Zealand youth reading at the New Zealand National Commemorative Service.
The service was attended by his Royal Highness Prince Charles and Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee and Lichtenstein’s reading was of 2nd Lieutenant Alexander Aitken's account of survival by crawling from shell hole to shell hole back to allied lines in Goose Valley, between the towns of Flers and Longueval where the commemorations took place.
“To have the honour of representing New Zealand Youth for what was such a courageous effort in battle by the New Zealand men, meant a lot to me.”
Lichtenstein said the three commemorative services he took part in were very moving.
“Knowing my Great-Great Uncle James Weir was one of the men to charge 'over the top' out of the trench made the services much more emotional. I could feel a kind of energy walking the cemeteries of the fallen men, many of whom are unknown.”
“I was incredibly moved by looking out over the fields and even though I've never met James and Robert Weir, I felt like I knew them and they were there with me.”
Lichtenstein says travelling to France for these commemorations is just one of a number of valuable opportunities he has gained as a Sea Cadet.
“The Sea Cadet Corps has taught me valuable skills such as leadership, organisation, discipline and respect through a variety of training and adventurous activities such as sailing (including sailing on the Spirit of Adventure), first aid and instruction.”
Next year, Lichtenstein is planning to study a Bachelor of Environmental Policy and Planning at Lincoln University.