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Young New Zealanders to visit El Alamein

19 August 2002

Young New Zealanders to visit El Alamein

Prime Minister Helen Clark today announced an essay-writing competition aimed at choosing three secondary school students to travel to Egypt with the official government delegation for ceremonies to mark the 60th anniversary of the Second Battle of El Alamein on 19-20 October.

The Prime Minister will travel to Egypt for the commemoration and participate in international and Commonwealth ceremonies. Helen Clark will link with veterans groups, a New Zealand Defence Force honour guard and concert party travelling to El Alamein.

The Second Battle of El Alamein in October 1942 was the climactic engagement of the North African campaign. A total of 379 New Zealanders were killed in the battle, which proved to be the first decisive success for Allied forces over a German-led army in World War II.

Helen Clark said the New Zealand Second Division, including the Maori Battalion, played a critical role in the battle for North Africa.

“During the Second Battle of El Alamein, Allied forces broke through enemy forces on a broad front in a push that broke the Axis line.

“New Zealanders were part of the infantry assault, and their artillery played a vital role in supporting the British forces. New Zealand sappers also played a major role in opening gaps in the enemy minefields. In one engagement at Halfaya Pass, the New Zealand Infantry took 600 prisoners and suffered just two casualities.

“I am keen to encourage a greater interest in New Zealand’s history among young people. El Alamein was a major turning point in World War II and New Zealanders played a key role in events there,” Helen Clark said.

The essay competition is open to students of 15 years of age and over. They will be asked to write an essay on one of four topics.

The questions will be included in an information pack sent to schools through the Office of Veterans’ Affairs.

Students are being offered the option of the following four topics:
Option 1
Imagine that you are a New Zealander who is taking part in the El Alamein campaign. Compile personal diary entries outlining your preparation for the battle, your experiences during the battle and its immediate aftermath, and your feelings after the campaign.
Option 2
Write a biography of an individual veteran from the El Alamein campaign that covers why they went to war, how they ended up at El Alamein, their experiences and the impact of those experiences on their life.
Option 3
Explain the part New Zealand played in the Battle of El Alamein, and discuss why it is important for New Zealanders.
Option 4
‘El Alamein was the high point of New Zealand’s Second World War effort.’ How valid is this assessment, and why?

Entries should be sent to:

Office of the Prime Minister
Attn: Alec McLean
Parliament Buildings

Or sent by email to:


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