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Western Front for Tasmanian pair

BAYVIEW Secondary College year 10 student Nell Hentschel and teacher Mel Burnett will head to France and Belgium to explore the Western Front after winning the Frank MacDonald Memorial Prize for 2018.

The Frank MacDonald Memorial Prize was established to honour the memory of Tasmania’s last World War One veteran and is open to all students in year nine.

Nell said she entered after being approached by her history teacher Mrs Burnett at the start of last year.

“I’ve always been passionate about history and it’s a really interesting subject,” she said.

“I thought this would be a great opportunity to extend myself and ultimately visit a new country with new people, as well as get a deep understanding of the experience of soldiers at war.”

Nell was required to write a 1,200-word essay from the start of April to the end of August.

Her topic examined whether John Monash was an outsider in the First World War and if he helped win the war.

She tackled the question by taking two approaches – comparing him as an outsider to her great grandfather Ekkehard Beissen, and taking the more philosophical approach of asking whether a war is ever truly won.

Nell said Mrs Burnett provided amazing guidance and editing skills when writing her essay.

“I really relied on her for information about the Frank MacDonald Memorial Prize and she was fantastic in supporting me throughout the process,” she said.

Alongside five other students and a teacher, Nell and Mrs Burnett will experience firsthand what soldiers faced while visiting the battlefields of World War One.

“By visiting the land that these soldiers fought on and seeing for myself the memorials and gravesites, I’ll be able to really immerse myself in their experiences – it’ll be life changing,” Nell said.

Mrs Burnett said it would be an amazing opportunity for students to learn more about history.

“You can only just imagine the horrors of World War One when you’re reading it from a textbook or watching a documentary,” she said.

“It’s not until you visit those places that you can understand the suffering that was happening on the Western Front and how tragic it was for those men.

“From what I’ve been told from past winners it’s an incredibly moving experience.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the six kids experience it in a very authentic way.”

Mrs Burnett said it was the first time that Bayview had entered the Frank MacDonald Memorial Prize, let alone won it.

“We’re hoping that it’ll encourage and inspire other students to see that they can win a similar sort of prize and set their standards as high as they want to,” she said.

Nell encouraged other students to enter the competition in the future.

“I hope this will make it a bit easier for other students to give it a go – just seeing that somebody from the school could do it, so they can do it too,” she said.

Caption: Nell Hentschel, second from left, and other high school students in Tasmania will gain a deeper understanding of World War One in France and Belgium after winning the Frank MacDonald Memorial Prize.