Meander Valley Gazette

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Simpson prize for battlefield saga

NewsJoanne EisemannComment
kate-sheahan-westbury.jpg

MAY 2018 | Hayley Manning

FULL MARKS go to our Tasmanian winner of the National Simpson Prize writing competition, Kate Sheahan.

Former Deloraine High graduate, Kate, and State runner-up, Caleb Paine, were presented with a certificate and medallion in front of their parents at Parliament House, Canberra, on 26th March 2018.

The two-days spent in the Capital also served as a bonding opportunity for the eight first-prize winners prior to their all expenses paid tour of the Western Front battlefields and historical institutions throughout London, Ypres, and Paris.

Kate’s father, Adrian, found the 2017 Simpson Prize question online and encouraged her to enter in the ANZAC essay challenge, based on their shared interest in the Great War, and a collection of books by official war correspondent Charles E Bean.

“I dismissed the idea of winning and just assumed the essay hadn’t gone very well, but then I got an email in late January 2018, saying I had been selected as the Tasmanian winner,” Kate said.

“The worst part was we couldn’t tell anyone until after we had attended the formal ceremony in Canberra” she said.

Kate’s Deloraine High English teacher, Mr Lewis, said the Education Department funded Simpson Prize, is best suited to students who want to improve their understanding of the ANZAC legacy.

“It was obvious from Kate’s first draft and the amount of research she undertook that she was interested in the topic,” Mr Lewis said.

Kate focused her essay on two Western Front battles, Bullecourt and Passchendaele, and the factors that made these battles so intolerable - frozen or muddy trenches, the British command, and an unprecedented casualty rate - to support her argument that 1917 was the worst year of the Great War.

National Serviceman, Peter Ashton, who received a Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery in Vietnam, said the WW1 casualty statistics would not be acceptable today.

“There was a different mindset with regards to conflict resolution during that period,” Peter said.

Peter went on to praise the Simpson Prize competition and its measure of importance for present and future generations to remember the horrors of war. “We need to seek non-violent conflict resolution and more realistic options,” he said.

Photo | Hayley Manning