This page broadly outlines how teachers and students of social studies and history could use the feature on Passchendaele: fighting for Belgium. The feature is of great value to teachers and students working at various levels.

New Zealanders in Belgium

New Zealanders fought in Belgium during the First World War as part of the Western Front campaign. This campaign saw massive battles fought along a line stretching some 700 kilometres from Switzerland to the Belgian coast. New Zealand’s experience on the Western Front has been overshadowed by stories of Gallipoli and Anzac Day, but in the overall context of the war, the Western Front was more important. While nearly 2800 New Zealanders lost their lives at Gallipoli in 1915, considerably more  12,500  were killed on the Western Front. Despite the focus on Gallipoli, French and Belgian placenames like the Somme, Messines and Passchendaele hold a special place in the family histories of many New Zealanders. These battles were the deadliest in New Zealand’s military history.

We would love to hear from schools about their own First World War research based on the experiences of ex-pupils who served overseas, particularly in Belgium.

Social studies

Many schools use Anzac Day as an opportunity to reflect on New Zealand’s experiences in war. Schools that existed during the wars of the 20th century sometimes look at the impact of war on their own school community. Many schools will have a roll of honour listing the names of former pupils who died during the two world wars or, perhaps, a building or trophy named after an ex-pupil who was killed.

In schools where social studies is used to explore themes such as the development of national identity, the place of war (and its associated themes of suffering and sacrifice) can be used to explore how these events shaped a sense of who we are as a people. On a more intimate level, Anzac Day has also been used to explore family history and the involvement of pupils’ ancestors in war.

This feature can also be used to expand an Anzac Day study into a wider study of New Zealand and the First World War:

NCEA history

The impact of the First World War, and in particular the Western Front, on New Zealand and the experiences of New Zealanders who fought there are relevant to a number of achievement standards across all levels. This feature provides students with a context for historical investigation and, therefore, the research standards at each level. It has particular relevance to the following Level 2 topics and achievement standard:

  • extension for the Level 2 topic on the Origins of World War I
  • a case study associated with the Level 2 topic on the growth of New Zealand identity 18901980
  • Achievement standard 2.6: Examine individual or group identity in a historical setting.

See NCEA Level 2 history activity ideas relating to this topic in the Classroom.

More classroom topics

How to cite this page

'Classroom ideas - Passchendaele', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 21-Mar-2016