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Essay Comp: Students Sought To Visit Monte Cassino

Essay competition to find young New Zealanders to visit Monte Cassino

Prime Minister Helen Clark today announced an essay-writing competition aimed at choosing four secondary school students to travel to Italy in May for commemorative events marking the sixtieth anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino.

The students will be part of an official New Zealand delegation involving government representatives, veterans, and New Zealand Defence Force personnel who will travel to Italy to participate in the ceremonies.

The fighting at Cassino was the last major battle fought by New Zealand troops in World War II, and one of the most costly of the war. During the period 15-26 March 1944 the New Zealand Division suffered nearly 1,400 casualties, including 343 killed in action. Monte Cassino finally fell on 17 May 1944 when the German Army retreated from its positions at the bombed-out monastery.

“I am keen to encourage a greater interest in New Zealand’s history among young people,” Helen Clark said.

“The fighting at Cassino had a significant impact on New Zealand, and has in fact been described as one of this country’s worst military disasters.

“It was a brutal and chaotic battle in treacherous conditions brought on by heavy rains in early 1944. While it was ultimately a victorious campaign, it had a bitter aftermath amid claims of tactical errors that cost many Allied lives, and questions about whether the bombing of the monastery was really necessary,” Helen Clark said.

The essay competition is open to students of 15 years of age and over. They will be asked to write a one-thousand word essay on one of six topics.

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

For more information on the competition or a copy of the entry form, contact Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand on freephone 0800-483 8372 or visit their website at

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