Tribute to NZ soldiers buried on foreign soil

EXPERIENCE: Howick College students learning to fight gladiator style during their recent trip to Italy and Greece. Photo supplied.

Reading about historical sites in high school classical studies is one thing, but travelling across the world to visit those places constitutes a whole new level of education.

A group of eleven lucky Howick College students spent their April school holidays doing just that – traipsing through the ancient ruins of Greece and Italy – along with teachers Cameron Wilson and Justine Gibson in what year 12 student Ana McKearney has dubbed the “trip of a lifetime”.

“Being able to see what I’m studying in person and experience the culture is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she said.

Favourite spots included Florence, the archaeological museum in Athens and the Colosseum where students engaged in an old-school gladiator fight.

Visiting the museums and historic sites was surreal, said year 13 student Madi Hewett.

“It was incredible to get an understanding of what it was actually like to live in those times. Our tour guide [in Greece] was teaching us little words. She really made sure we understood what we were doing, which was amazing.”

However, there was a more significant reason behind the trip – the school’s involvement in the Dolores Cross Project.

The not-for-profit memorial initiative was started in April 2008 by Dolores Ho, a Malaysian-Chinese woman who migrated to New Zealand in 1987, with the aim of personally paying tribute to New Zealand military personnel buried on foreign soil.

This April, the college group travelled to a large memorial site near Naples, Italy where 500 New Zealand soldiers are buried.

The students placed flax crosses and poppies they created prior to leaving New Zealand at the site of 50 graves as they paid their respects and gave back – a poignant experience for all.

“That was essentially our Anzac Day, because we were on a plane [heading home] when it was actually Anzac Day,” said Madi.

The 17-year-old didn’t know until she arrived that a family member of hers was buried among the New Zealand soldiers.

“It was definitely a moving experience.”