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Over the top for the big push, how to seize victory from the jaws of defeat in NCEA History or Social Studies.

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Over the top for the big push, how to seize victory from the jaws of defeat in NCEA History or Social Studies.

Passchendaele in NCEA History:

Writing for NCEA History Level 1 & 2:

NCEA history requires students to analyse perspectives, identify trends and forces within history and develop an argument on a given issue. In order to be successful in NCEA History examinations, students must clearly answer the question and develop a convincing, evidence based argument. When writing an essay for an internal or external, it is important that candidates return often to the wording of the question in the structuring of their responses and do not wander from the central issue of the paper. In the case of the following AS91234, that issue is to do with causes and consequences, and the impacts of a historical event of significance to New Zealanders, thus students should restrict their analysis to the scope of the event they have studied itself—in this case, the Battle of Passchendaele—and then its causes and consequences.

Quotation of historians and identifying what form of perspective their comments represent will be necessary for students to achieve in NCEA history. This is called historiography and involves presenting and analysing various historian’s outlooks on the event in question. Some useful historians for the Great War include:

  • Glyn Harper

  • Sir Max Hastings

  • Paul Moon

  • Keith Sinclair

  • Stevan Eldred-Grigg

  • James Belich

  • Peter Stanley

You can also find more sources in the educational resources page of this website (see above).

A general plan for an NCEA History Essay for the Causes and Consequences topic could look like this:

  1. Introduction

  2. Historical context of the event.

  3. Mid-term cause.

  4. Trigger Cause.

  5. Description of the event.

  6. Short term consequence.

  7. Mid-term consequence.

  8. Lasting impact.

  9. Conclusion

Depending on the question you are asked, the causes or consequences you will need to include may be different to as demonstrated above. For example, the question may ask what the consequences on people and groups were or it may ask you for social or economic causes. Either way, this structure could be adapted in to any essay for this standard.

You may also be given a quote to include in your essay response as a part of the question, in that case, be sure to pick out the keywords of the quote and refer to them at least once per paragraph along with the key words of the question. To identify these key words which you should repeat often to link your essay more closely to the question, read the quote or question and underline the parts which you believe may be most relevant to your essay. for example, if the essay question was:

Examine how a significant historical event affected New Zealanders in the short and/or long term.

The key parts are the, ‘short,’ and, ‘long term.’ You must also explain why the event you have chosen is significant to New Zealanders. If you are writing about Passchendaele, it would be worth mentioning in your introduction that Passchendaele remains New Zealand’s worst military disaster and how this led to the social consequence of affecting a great many families in our nation.

Exemplar Essay:

The following essay was written by a Year 12 student by hand in 2016 under exam conditions. As such, there are some grammatical errors as per the haste in which it was written, however, these do not affect the grading of the work as per NCEA standards. There are also some historical details that require a small amount of correction. These minor changes will be sumarised at the bottom of this page. Typically, the NZQA do not release exemplars of E8 standard, normally, they will only release an E7 exemplar. In light of that, it is fair to say that this is an essay of a very high standard, despite some shortcomings which are corrected below. Thus, the following essay is a more than suitable model for students at NCEA Level 2.

Level 1 & 2 History External: AS91234

Examine how a significant historical event affected New Zealand society

This assessment is one of the most widely taken papers in NCEA history. The Battle of Passchendaele can be a well suited event to cover in your essay for this exam at levels 1 & 2. Most schools only enter their students for two of the possible three external papers for the NCEA history examinations, as such, students can spend as much as two hours on this essay as to achieve a higher level of depth and analysis. Below, you will find an exemplar essay written for this external standard/paper at level 2, which received an Excellence grade of 8, the highest possible score. The following essay is quite long and essays need not be this long to achieve an Excellence grade, however, the breadth of topics covered in the following essay may inspire you as to conduct your own research into further aspects of the war. Following the essay is a breakdown of the points the student raised and a suggestion of further points that may have been raised as well. After this, there is also a number of links which contain further information as well as that which was used in this essay.

E8 Excellence exemplar essay on the Battle of Passchendaele by Michael Turnbull, Y12 Student, St Paul’s Collegiate (2016):

Essay Task:

Examine how a significant historical event affected New Zealanders in the short and/or long term. You must consider one or more of the following impacts:

  • social

  • political

  • economic

  • strategy/military.

World War One, also known as, ‘The Great War,’ or, ‘The War to End All Wars,’ has been characterised by its large scale gruesome battles, brutal conditions and deadly introduction of industrial warfare, including planes, trench and chemical warfare. New Zealand played an integral part in many of the legendary battles of World War One, including, Gallipoli, The Somme, and most importantly, the bloody Battle of Passchendaele. This long, arduous campaign was launched on the 28th of July, 1917 and dragged on until the 10th of November 1917. New Zealand’s involvement with the large-scale battles of WW1 cements its place on the stage of global warfare. Passchendaele had massive impacts on various sectors of New Zealand, including its, social, political and economical development and welfare. These aspects of New Zealand life were effected in a positive, negative and ofttimes both manners by its involvement in Passchendaele.

To truly understand the calamity that was Passchendaele, we must first look back at the circumstances and previous campaigns that lead up to it. The Battle of Messines Ridge launched on the 7th of July 1917, was a successful attack launched on Messines ridge, a German occupied ridge of high ground, which was essential to the Passchendaele campaign. The attack played out extremely successfully, with good conditions and a creeping barrage line which effectively cleared barbed wire allowing easy advancement of Allied troops whilst also holding back any German defenders. The attack was an overall success with a low casualty rate and well-implemented tactics. However, this somewhat easy capture sowed the seeds of arrogance in Field Marshall Douglas Haig which would eventually lead to the bloody disaster that was Passchendaele. Once the Allies had captured Messines Ridge, they were able to plan their next offensive from the strategic position it gave them. They planned to sweep through Passchendaele, successfully capturing it, and through towards the Belgian coast, attacking the many German U-boat bases located there. The U-boat were disrupting Allied trade and supplies, so it was essential for them for to be destroyed for the successful continuances of the Belgian Front. The conditions at Passchendaele however, were far worse than those at Messines. The constant shelling and worst rain in many years reduced the environment to a, ‘crater of the moon,’ landscape and turned most of the battlefield into an impassable quagmire. Here the Germans were far better dug in, with concrete pillboxes from which they could mow down any attacking Allied soldiers. Also the impassable sludge that the battlefield now consisted of meant that many of the artillery pieces became stuck, eventually firing on their own men. This long offensive eventually culminated on the 12th of October 1917 with the Battle of Bellevue Spur, the second of two small rises leading to the Passchendaele Ridge. This day was the blackest day in human history for New Zealand with the deaths of 846 New Zealanders and the wounding of 2700 others. This was the worst human disaster in New Zealand history before or since. This also coupled with the deaths of 1853 other soldiers from all across the British Ranks. Eventually, after being decimated and destroyed by the German defence, the New Zealand Corps was relieved on the 18th of October by the Canadian Corps, who eventually went on to take Passchendaele. This was an all time low in New Zealand’s military history and all together as many as, 350,000 British casualties were taken during the Third Battle of Ypres.

Politically, New Zealand’s involvement in Passchendaele had major ramifications on its government and the lives of its people. After the huge loss of life of the Passchendaele campaigns many politicians were heavily appalled and shocked and this led to the refusal to send anymore troops to the Belgian front. However, the eventual victory for the Allies in the war and New Zealand’s part in that victory led to some positives, as New Zealand gained control of Western Samoa, a step towards Prime Minister Seddon’s goal of creating an, ‘England of the South Pacific.’ This also opened political and social gateways with the Samoan people and helps explain the large Samoan population in New Zealand today. When it comes to how New Zealand’s involvement in Passchendaele impacted on the country’s independence from Britain, there are two main camps. Some, such as historian Keith Sinclair notices that our involvement in the large scale battles of the WWI, including Passchendaele, helped to forge our own unique national identity. Others, such as more Marxist historians James Belich and Stevan Eldred-Grigg, believe this only helped to reforge New Zealand’s relationship and reliance on the, ‘motherland,’of Great Britain. James Belich believes that Britain had to pay for the high New Zealand death toll under British command by buying produce from New Zealand throughout the war, essentially converting it to, ‘Britain’s farm.’ When it came to international relations, Passchendaele brought out some major changes. A part of the Allies’ victory in the war, New Zealand was appointed a place on the league of nations. This was a step towards self rule and showed that many in the international community believed that New Zealand had enough competence and respect to be able to rule itself effectively. The large sacrifice of New Zealand soldiers on Flanders Fields also opened up gateways and continued fraternity with the Belgian people. An example of this is the Ypres Agreement signed in 2007 by the New Zealand and Belgian people, which promised that Belgium would respect, honour and commemorate those New Zealanders lying in Belgium’s war graves, including 4600 resting in the Commonwealth War graves. The involvement in World War One and Passchendaele did sully the diplomatic relations between the German and New Zealand people and put diplomatic relations back many years. The huge death toll did effect the returning soldiers views of British leadership, including that of Field Marshall Douglas Haig, whom they called, ‘The Butcher of the Somme,’ because of the large-scale bloodshed he was seen to have caused. This seemed somewhat short-lived as New Zealand have continued to fight alongside British soldiers in various other military engagements such as WWII, the Middle East and Vietnam. To this day New Zealand still reap the benefit of its close ties to the British. These ties have been formed by the strong of the wartime bond developed in the bloody trenches of WWI, where, as James Belich puts it, New Zealand proved itself as a, ‘strong lion cub of the empire.’

Economically Passchendaele impacts upon New Zealand consisted of both negatives and positives. Firstly, many farmers thrived during the wartime as they were able to sell their produce at a sustainably high price to Britain. It is throughout the wartime that business boomed for many capitalists, especially wool kings who’s produce was sold as a military resource for clothing, uniform and blankets. However, many working class people suffered with a 10% decrease in savings for working class citizens. There was also a massive increase in the price of living, and with inflation reaching 44% in 1918 life became hard for your average New Zealander. The price of food and coal increased, leading to a greatly unhealthier population and this, coupled with the fact that many doctors, nurses and medical supplies were involved in the war lead to an outbreak of influenza nearing the end of the war. Many families and businesses took on large debts. Also the introduction of the disabled soldier pension further descended the New Zealand economy. Also the, ‘Lost Generation effect,’ with around 100,000 New Zealanders fighting in the war out of a population of 1,000,000, lead to large gaps in the work sector. Many could be filled by women, a positive for many middle class women as it allowed increased job opportunities. However, many job industries such as mining, fishing and lumber stayed unfilled though the war, creating revenue, led to less and less production in many of these sectors. The involvement in Passchendaele also completely destroyed the growing German-New Zealand trade and German desires for New Zealand goods took many years to recover. In, ‘The Great Wrong War,’ Stevan Eldred-Grigg asks, ‘Why did New Zealand go to war with one of its best trading partners?’ One long term positive was that after seeing the long and disastrous consequences of two World Wars, Europe decided to trade peacefully for resources rather than fight, forming the EEC, now EU, which is still a solid trading partner with New Zealand to this day.

Socially New Zealand’s involvement in Passchendaele brought about many changes. The wide-spread industrial problem created by the large-scale loss of life led to a smaller scale, ‘Glorious Revolution,’ of some sort with the birth of the Labour Party in 1916. This far left party was created to address the ever present needs of the working class. These industrial problems also benefited many women as they were able to fit into the gaps in the workforce, and show that they could work in demanding conditions during demanding times just as competently as men, a huge step for women’s rights. The high death toll of Passchendaele both affected New Zealand negatively and strangely enough, positively. Up until 1916 New Zealand had been fighting in a wholly, ‘White Man’s War,’ with only white men being conscripted. However, as the high death toll of Passchendaele began to take its toll on the overall military force, many commanders turned their eyes to the indigenous Maori population, with many conscripted, and some even volunteering. This allowed Maori to showcase their staunch and renowned fighting ability on the global stage, gaining the respect of many British commanders. It also led to the large-scale phenomena around the, ‘ Maori contingent.’ This was a major stepping stone for Maori-Pakeha relations. For those Maori who were already begrudging of British rule, this only helped increase their dislike of British authority as they were being sent to fight and die for an empire which had only recently confiscated much of their land. The Battle of Passchendaele also brought in a wave of Niuean immigrant who had previously served in the war and now preferred the British and military life over that of their island. New Zealand’s involvement in Passchendaele also led to a whole, ‘Lost Generation.’ Many small towns, villages and families lost valuable male leaders and role figures, also leaving a high gap in their population and work force. An example of the extent of this is that out of 230 Wellington college students who died in WW 1, 150 of them died on the bloody slopes of Passchendaele. 18,000 New Zealand soldiers died and a further 40,000 were wounded during World War One, and of those who did return uninjured still found conversion to civilian life difficult. Those who returned were wounded, scarred and many suffered from shell-shock. Many returning servicemen found their personality had changed and they were unable to adapt to civilian life, an example of this was Private Thomas Rawlings, who returned home a, ‘grumpy man,’ in his family’s eyes, his personality changed by the horrors of war. On the positive side, he won a ballot for a rehabilitation farm, which install in the family to this day.

The brutal Battle of Passchendaele was just one example of the bloody battles of World War one which left New Zealand impacted and in a state of shock. Passchendaele and other WW1 battles effected various sectors of New Zealand’s lifestyle and catapulted it on to the stage of international warfare. Passchendaele brought about many positive and negative impacts into the varying sectors of New Zealand society, such as political, social and economical and its ramifications are still being felt today. 

Essay Breakdown:

  1. Introduction - the Battle of Passchendaele saw New Zealand exposed to global warfare on an unprecedented scale and had social and economic consequences including that of welfare. It also had both positive and negative effects.

  2. Mid-term cause - the Battle of Messines which led the New Zealanders into the battle in the Ypres Salient in order to reach Belgian coast and neutralise U-boat pens.

  3. Event - brief description of Passchendaele and the attack on Bellevue spur.

  4. Political and social consequences - Loss of life, two arguments on NZ’s relationship with Britain: more independent or closer, League of Nations, friendship with Belgium andmajor setbacks in relationship with Germany and continued military allegiance with Britain.

  5. Economic consequences - increased revenue for farmers and trading with Britain, working class wages lowered cost of living increased and class divisions grew forming the Labour party and loss of trading with previous partner, Germany.

  6. Social impacts - increased number of women in the workforce, demands for men see conscription of Maori and related tensions with indigenous in the context of preceding colonial conflict, positive impacts of Maori involvement in war on relations between NZ Europeans and Maori and the Lost Generation effect along with issues following repatriation of NZ soldiers.

  7. Conclusion - summary of argument.


Essay Corrections:


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