In late June and early July 2018 twenty students from schools all over NSW participated in a life-changing experience as Premier’s Anzac Memorial Scholars. During the Centenary of Anzac, which draws to a close on Remembrance Day 2018, the Scholarship has taken students to the Western Front to visit significant battlefields in Belgium and France where Australians fought and died during the Great War, and where their courage and sacrifice are commemorated.
Below is an article written by Carla Killen from Hunter Valley Grammar School, one of the three accompanying teachers on this year’s tour, who describes the experience in her own words.
In Term 4 2017, I was forwarded information about the 2018 Premier’s Anzac Memorial Scholarship, which is an annual opportunity offered to students in NSW through the Office for Veterans Affairs (OVA). This Scholarship was a fully paid experience for students who loved History, to visit the Western Front and tour the battlefields as part of the Centenary of the Battle of Hamel. The successful applicants were chosen- now all they needed were teachers to apply.
After a written application and an interview down in Sydney, I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of three teachers responsible for the daily coordination of the Scholars. Needless to say, as a teacher of History, this was one of the most memorable experiences I have had and am thankful to my Principal, Mr Teys, for supporting my application. 20 students in total attended from all over NSW who came from various backgrounds, making the trip a pleasure. This is not to forget the wonderful company of Ms Lisa Waygood the Head of Humanities at Engadine High School, Mr Greg Hannelly the Head of Humanities at St Edward’s College, East Gosford, Mrs Bryony Feltham from OVA and the amazing Mr Brad Manera, Senior Historian and Curator at the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park, Sydney, who would bring to life the battlefield sites with his stories about the Australian diggers. As a group we all became a history ‘family’ and visited the places that we as teachers know all too well from our studies.
Our tour involved visiting a multitude of museums, Commonwealth war graves and battle sites to honour the men and women who had fought along the Western Front and gave their lives for Australia. Students were required to research a nominated soldier or nurse and to present a short biography, usually at the location of their grave, to highlight their role in the Great War. I also had the pleasure of completing this task by researching my Great Uncle Thierman who fought and died in the Ypres Salient - this was an extremely emotional experience.
However, the tour wasn’t all serious and solemn. There were plenty of opportunities to experience life overseas, visiting London and the Natural History Museum, the V&A Museum, touring Hyde Park and the Imperial War Museum, learning the ‘ins and outs’ of French public transport and their obsession with baguettes and having the honour to represent NSW by attending ceremonies to commemorate the attack on Hamel by the Australian General Monash and the daily Last Post ceremony at Menin Gate. We even came across the Château de Querrieu which was the Head Quarters of General Rawlinson and commandeered by Monash to decorate his soldiers in the field…History nerd heaven.
Overall, I would recommend that all teachers consider the opportunities that are presented to us, no matter how small the chances might be. You might find yourself standing in Europe visiting the trenches and sites you have only ever seen in a textbook.
The 2018 Premier’s Anzac Memorial Scholarship program was managed by the NSW Office for Veterans Affairs, Department of Justice, in consultation with the NSW Department of Education. Scholars were selected on the basis of their genuine interest in Australian history and the Anzac tradition, their positive contribution to their school community and their ability to be outstanding representatives for their school and the state of NSW. The Scholarship provided the students with the opportunity to develop their knowledge and understanding of the history of Australia’s involvement in the Great War and the Anzac tradition. Accompanying teachers will also share the knowledge they gained through the tour with colleagues in their own schools and beyond with essays published in 2019 editions of the History Teachers Association of NSW’s quarterly journal Teaching History.
2018 Tour Scholarship Recipients