Carnage and slaughter.
Those are just two of the words 14-year-old Ben O’Sullivan used to describe World War1 in the Upper Waitaki Returned and Services Association essay writing competition.
The Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil won the top award for his entry in the competition.
Ben crafted his literary penmanship in the form of a letter.
Ben has a flair for creative writing and used it to full effect in his letter, from a soldier only known as Oliver serving on the front line in Belgium, to his nephew, Noah. The letter Ben wrote in the soldier’s voice was dated October 12, 1917.
It describes the horror he experiences of seeing his friends killed, the futility of war and the feeling of helplessness he conveys to his nephew, as well as a warning to a keen-to-serve Noah that the battlefield is no place for a young man not yet out of school.
Ben was encouraged to enter the competition by his English teacher, while he was learning more about the war through film and letters from the trenches, and was also inspired by his grandfather.
“My grandad had always been interested in war and I guess that rubbed off on me.”
For Ben, it was important he captured the emotion of the war and painted an image for those who read it.
“I adapted it a bit for the competition. I was trying to get across the horror of war and what they went through on a daily basis.”
He wrote the letter during the lockdown.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity to see if I could win something with my writing, which I did, so it was pretty cool.”
The competition has two sections, one for primary school pupils and another for those at secondary school.
Speeches or poems could be entered and had to meet the brief – a letter to or from a serviceman.
Ben, who took home the senior prize trophy, a cheque for $150 from the RSA and an invitation to next year’s Anzac Day dawn service at Hakataramea where he will recite his work, said he planned to continue writing.
The primary school section was won by Waitaki Valley School pupil Charlotte Thornley, who wrote a letter to her great-great grandfather Hector Thornley about Anzac Day today and what it meant to people.