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Wartime history given new life

KARINA ABADIA
Last updated 05:00 28/03/2014
Jamie Wansey

PRESERVING HISTORY: Student Horizons managing director Jamie Wansey, Passchendaele Society vice-president Chris Mullane and president Iain MacKenzie have signed an agreement to send students to Passchendaele for the commemoration of the World War I battle in 2017.

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It's hard to believe that many of the men who died in the battle of Passchendaele were in their late teens.

Passchendaele Society president Iain MacKenzie says people often don't realise how young some of the soldiers were.

That's one of the reasons why it's important the younger generation are aware of the sacrifices that were made at the World War I battle, he says.

The Passchendaele Society is partnering with the education travel company Student Horizons to take a group of students to Passchendaele in Belgium for the centenary of the battle on October 12, 2017.

Student Horizons managing director Jamie Wansey says the collaboration fits the company objectives well.

"As per the name we're about broadening the horizons of young people.

"It seemed like there was an opportunity where both organisations could benefit from forming a relationship," he says.

"Learning by doing is what it's all about. Getting out to see different parts of the world and especially parts of the world where New Zealanders have played a key role is incredibly important."

A competition will determine who the 30 to 40 lucky students are, but the details are yet to be decided, Passchendaele Society vice president Chris Mullane says.

Another way the society engages with young people is through the annual Ministry of Veterans Affairs Multi Media Competition entitled Why Don't We Remember The Battle of Passchendaele?

Suburban Newspapers, publisher of the Central Leader, ran the contest two years ago.

The top five entrants were chosen to lay a wreath at the 95th anniversary service at the Auckland War Memorial Museum commemorative service (Central Leader, September 12, 2012).

Mr MacKenzie says the New Zealand contribution to the battle is something to be proud of.

"Young people who are struggling to find their identity should realise the proud history that this country has. Ask the people of Belgium what they think.

"If they went to Passchendaele just off the cuff, they'd be likely to find a New Zealand flag sticking out of a window somewhere.

"There's still that gratitude that we don't really acknowledge."

Go to stuff.co.nz and search Last Post, First Light to find out more about the commemorations.

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- Central Leader

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