We were privileged to listen to Xander Power (Marist College) and Jacob Rittman (Penguin HS), who were accompanied by Emma Cohen (Burnie HS English & History teacher). The two boys were very capable and did us Rotarians proud.
Seen at right: (L to R) Xander, Jacob, Emma.
The Frank MacDonald Memorial Prize is an annual competition that commemorates and preserves the meaning of the Anzac spirit in the Tasmanian community. Our speakers tonight were two of the six Year 9 students selected from around Tasmania to go on a 10-day Study Tour in April 2023 (incorporating Anzac Day) and:
– visit the Australian War Memorial in Canberra
– attend monthly educational meetings in the lead up to the Study Tour
– undertake research into individual soldiers prior to touring European battle-grounds.
The Tas. Dept. of Education invites essays from Year 9 students throughout Tasmania and whittles the candidates down to a final group of six students to take part in the Tour.
Jacob said their time was focused on Ypres and surrounding locations. They saw the Menin Gate with its 54,000 names of missing soldiers who have no other proper grave and they participated in the 8 pm service, held every day since 1928. They walked in trenches that were only 1.2m deep and they visited the huge 100m diameter crater that is all that remains of Hill 60 which had been destroyed by explosives placed underneath by experienced British and Allied mine workers.
They also visited other famous battlegrounds, such as Polygon Wood, Fromelles (where there are remains of 5,500 Australian soldiers) and Tyne Cot cemetery – the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world.
Xander said the group focused initially on the region near Amiens (the Somme). More than three million men fought in the Somme battles, of which one million were either wounded or killed, making it one of the deadliest battles in all of human history.
They visited Ablain St. Nazaire cemetery, the world’s largest French military cemetery with 40,000 French soldier’s graves. They saw the famous Canadian memorial at Vimy Ridge, which bears the names of all Canadian soldiers who died in France with no known grave.
Pozieres was another destination for the group. This part of the Somme battleground is of particular interest to Australia, as it was the scene of bitter and costly fighting by Australian Divisions in mid-1916. The Australians suffered around 12,000 casualties.
Another destination in the Somme was Villers-Bretonneux, where the main memorial to Australian military personnel killed on the Western Front in WW One is located. The Sir John Monash Centre there is a museum and interpretive centre for Australia’s most famous General in WW One. While there, the group left their hotel at 2:40 am to be present during the Anzac Day dawn service.
After all that, the group had one day in Paris before returning to Australia. Oh, and they ate snails too!
What an amazing experience!