Dylan Woodhouse is one of ten secondary school students from around New Zealand set to travel to Europe tomorrow to take part in events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele.

The students, hailing from Rotorua Girls’ High School, St Margaret’s College in Christchurch and St Paul’s Collegiate in Hamilton won a competition to produce Passchendaele digital curriculum resources. The competition was a Passchendaele Society initiative supported by Fields of Remembrance Trust and organised by the Ministry of Education.

Woodhouse, a Year 12 student at St Paul’s Collegiate worked with students Tony Wu, Lucy Tustin and Conor Horrigan (pictured) to produce an interactive website (https://bloodandmud.org/) to help bring Passchendaele to life for Year 7 to 10 students.

“The First World War is often overshadowed by its bigger brother, World War II. Most people have heard of Gallipoli, but not many people know about Passchendaele,” says Woodhouse, whose great-great-grandfather fought at Passchendaele.

The entire Passchendaele Offensive period from 31st July to 8th November 1917 saw the loss of 2,412 New Zealand lives, including 846 soldiers on October 12th, often referred to as New Zealand’s darkest day.

Woodhouse hopes their website will help young people look beyond the tragic numbers and understand the impacts of war at an individual level.

For example, the site allows the user to explore the stories of Kiwi soldiers, including that of Hemi Maaka, a labourer and widower from Northland, who joined the war with the Maori Contingent and was posted to the Western Front on the 12th of June 1917. The site encourages people to use the Online Cenotaph tool and leave a poppy on Hemi’s tombstone. It encourages them to put themselves in Hemi’s shoes and imagine fighting in the freezing mud.

Woodhouse and the other students will meet each other tonight at Szimpla Restaurant Auckland Airport before flying to Europe tomorrow. They will represent New Zealand, taking part in centennial events at Tyne Cot Cemetery and New Zealand’s Memorial and Garden at Zonnebeke. Prince William and other dignitaries are expected to be in attendance.

Meanwhile back in New Zealand, 2,412 personalised white crosses will be installed in front of the Auckland War Memorial Museum’s Cenotaph, commemorating the New Zealanders who lost their lives in the Passchendaele Offensive.

Passchendaele Society President, Iain MacKenzie says the Battle of Passchendaele is of immense significance to all New Zealanders.

“One hundred years ago, our men fought, died and witnessed unspeakable horror some 18,500 kilometres away from their homeland. They fought alongside our Allies for the freedom which we take so much for granted today.”

The secondary students leaving for Europe tomorrow are Alyssa Mae Pineda, Kayla Kautai, Mairaatea Mohi, Atawhai Ngatai and Keighley Jones from Rotorua Girls’ High School; Alexandra Lay from St Margaret’s College, Christchurch; and Dylan Woodhouse, Tony Wu, Lucy Tustin and Conor Horrigan from St Paul’s Collegiate in Hamilton.


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